Six new marine animal species have been found amid a previously unexplored cluster of hydrothermal vents deep in the Indian Ocean.
A research team from the University of Southampton made the finds during a survey of a football-sized patch of sea floor that will one day give way to licensed mining interests, owing to the area's promise as a source of copper and gold.
The site, about 1,243 miles (2,000 kilometers) southeast of Madagascar, is known as the Longqi vents. It rests some 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers) below the surface and yielded the new animals from among mineral protrusions known as "vent chimneys" – many of the stacks jutting some two stories up off the sea floor.
Using remotely operated vehicles, the team found a new species of "Hoff" crab; two new snails; a previously unknown limpet; and two new species of worm.
Most of the new animals have not been formally described, but the scientists suspect the creatures are likely not unique to the Longqi vents.
"We can be certain that the new species we've found also live elsewhere in the southwest Indian Ocean, as they will have migrated here from other sites," explained research lead Jon Copley in a statement, "but at the moment no one really knows where or how well-connected their populations are with those at Longqi."