Scientist discover four new species of giant single-celled organisms on Pacific seabed

Researchers found some new species of single-celled xenophyophores in the Pacific ocean that are considered as the largest living cell in the deep sea. They are the giant protists coming under the group foraminifera. Xenophyophores first described by the famous British zoologist Henry Bowman Brady in 1883. They can be seen in different shapes and sizes on the seafloor and are so important in maintaining the ecological cycle by providing food for the other organism.

Some studies have shown that the area dominated by xenophyophores has 3-4 times the number of benthic crustaceans, echinoderms, and mollusks than the equivalent area that lacks xenophyophores. Just like other foraminifera, xenophyophores create exoskeleton shells called tests by extracting the mineral from their surroundings. They are made of calcium carbonate and other foreign material particles glued together with organic cement that may range from a few millimeters to centimeters.

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During a joint project between scientists at the National Oceanography Center, UK (NOC), the University of Hawaii, and the University of Geneva, they have identified and named two new genera and four new species of xenophyophores. One genera named ‘Moanamminia’ after the word ‘Moana’, which means the ocean in Hawaii. The second genera named ‘Abyssalia’ as most of these were found on abyssal plains.

The species were described according to the morphology and genetic data from specimens collected with the University of Hawai’i’s Remotely Operated Vehicle Lu’ukai on an expedition to the western Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) which is targeted for deep-sea mining where polymetallic nodules are found.

Moanammina semicircularis sp.nov. – A new species of a new genus has a stem-shaped, fan-shaped shell, about 3 inches high and 3.5 inches wide, and this describes it as a gigantic unicellular size. Shells of the other two species, Abyssalia foliformis sp.nov. and Abyssalia spherical sp.nov. has a flat sheet and an almost perfect sphere. They are capable of having a glass sponge spicules for maintaining the shape of their body. The fourth species named Psammina tenuis sp.nov. has a thin lamellar shape.

These two genera and four species have increased the number of xenophyophores to 17 in the abyss of the deep sea plains (CCZ). Therefore, we can say that this part of the pacific ocean is a hotspot for xenophyophore diversity. Still, there are many defined diversity in the deep sea that remains unknown and not described.

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