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Unique hybrid deep sea creatures discovered off Costa Rica

Scientists found a pair of underwater environments where previously unknown hybrid creatures existed.

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Researchers estimated that there are more than 14,000 tubeworms in this tubeworm 'bush' found in the deep sea.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography/OurAmazingPlanet

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Scientists have discovered a strange and rare hybrid site in the deep sea where two extreme seafloor environments exist side by side, and are home to a parade of weird hybrid creatures seemingly adapted to the hardships posed by both intense environments.

Researchers discovered hydrothermal vents and cold methane seeps in a swath of the the deep sea off Costa Rica in 2010, and found a host of unknown species living there.

Scientists made the discovery during a dive in the manned submersible Alvin to an area known as the Jaco Scar, where an underwater mountain is moving under a tectonic plate.

"The most interesting aspects of this site are the presence of vent-like and seep-like features together, along with a vast cover of tubeworms over large areas and a wealth of new, undescribed species," lead researcher Lisa Levin, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said in a statement.

Hydrothermal vents exist where cracks or rifts in the seafloor spew forth volcanically heated, chemical-rich seawater, whereas cold seeps, as their name reflects, are far less intense environments where fluids laden with methane and other hydrocarbons slowly seep out of the seafloor and cover a large area.

The team coined the phrase "hydrothermal seep" to describe the ecosystem. Their research is published in the March 7 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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