Frigid and lightless, the floors of the deep oceans have long been considered a biological desert. So it is with no little astonishment that marine biologists are now discovering that the supposed desert seethes with a riot of life. The diversity of species is so high that it may rival that of tropical rain forests, often seen as the pinnacle of biological richness.
The profusion of species on the ocean floor also poses a severe challenge to current theory, since new species are thought usually to require some kind of environmental barrier in order to diverge, like a mountain range, while the ocean floor is more uniform than almost anywhere on land.
Rough estimates for the number of species on the deep-sea floor have now soared to 10 million or even 100 million, hundreds of times larger than the old projections of 200,000 species for all types of marine life.
. . .
The new creatures of the deep are anything but cuddly or cute, menacing or sinister. Dwelling on or in seabed ooze and often smaller than an aspirin tablet (although larger than an Advil), they include tiny slugs, snails, crabs, bristle worms, ribbon worms, lamp shells, tusk shells, sea anemones, brittle stars and sea cucumbers. The biggest are seldom longer than a banana.
. . .
The discovery seems to give some indirect credence to speculation about the existence of much larger sea creatures that remain to be discovered. If there are krakens, leviathans or other unknown monsters that prey at the top of the rich food chain of the deep ocean floor, they are certainly too big for the kind of small traps so far used in sampling programs.
Comment: For further info on deep-sea life, check out: "Light in the Ocean's Midwaters" By Bruce H. Robinson. Scientific American, July 1995. p. 60.
"The Last Frontier" By Michael D. Lemonick. Time, August 14, 1995. p. 52.