If it feels like you're always reading about scientists finding new species in the ocean, that's because they are. We as humans may have been exploring the sea at deeper and deeper levels with fancy robots and high-tech gear for years, but there's still so much we don't know.
In fact, just recently, a deep-sea expedition found a whopping 100 new species in a new oceanic zone, according to the Telegraph.
Yeah, triple digits of never-before-seen sea creatures.
The Telegraph reported that Oxford University researchers partnered with British ocean exploration charity Nekton, and together they stumbled on the rariphotic zone (rare light zone) in the waters off Bermuda.
The New York Post noted that the new area sits underneath a previously explored zone and lies 400 to 1,000 feet underwater. There, the team of 80 scientists helped find all the new species.
To be clear, they didn't find, say, 100 new sharks. The species are a little less sexy — mostly types of algae, crustaceans and coral, like the 6-foot-tall black wire coral, per the Post.
The area is being dubbed the "coral reef twilight zone" because of the black coral and other deep-sea inhabitants.
But while algae and coral may not seem super interesting to a non-ocean lover, these discoveries are pretty important.
For one, they reveal just how little we still know about the sea.
The researchers were shocked that the well-traveled Bermuda waters gave way to such scientific breakthroughs.
"Considering the Bermudian waters have been comparatively well-studied for many decades, we certainly weren't expecting such a large number and diversity of new species," Oxford University conservation biology professor Alex Rogers told the Telegraph.
And beyond just blowing scientists' minds, it's imperative that the general public learns of these new species, too. "You can only love something if you know it," marine biologist Ward Appeltans told Seeker about the importance of identifying new species.
"We will not save the world with this result, but we may start understanding it better."
This quest for knowledge and determining what lives on our planet alongside us has brought not only these 100 new species to light, but also many other new sea creatures over the last few years.
One hundred species were found in 2015 off the Philippines, including 40 types of nudibranchs, according to Smithsonian. A ton of fascinating new fish were recorded in 2016 and 2017, per Oceana. Newsweek reported in early 2018 that five new fish species had been found off Australia.
And, just a few months ago a new shark, the Atlantic sixgill, was recorded.
Suffice to say, the sea never stops surprising us.
The reason scientists are constantly discovering new species is twofold. For one, DNA testing is even more finely tuned these days, according to Atlas Obscura. Sensitive testing is able to tell when two species that may look identical are actually different.
And ultimately, the sea is just not that well-explored. Seeker notes that a study determined that two-thirds of ocean species are undiscovered.
This means around 700,000 to a million types still need to be found.
Seeker reported that most of these species are likely small — which lines up with Oxford University's mostly algae, crustacean and coral findings. But some scientists believe there could even be "up to eight species of whales and dolphins yet to be identified," according to Seeker.
That idea tracks with killer whales, where new types are still being discovered.
For example, Type D orcas — which were only discovered 50 years ago — look much different than their fellow orcas, hunt different food, and live in different areas. DNA testing hints that they could be their own species, according to another Azula report. Seeker reported that 2,000 marine species are documented each year.
But there's still a long way to go before the entire sea is mapped.
And finding new species isn't even the only exciting part of deep-sea explorations. Further studying the behavior of animals we already know exist can open up windows on how the ocean works. For example, the Oxford University researchers documented the deepest-recorded lionfish, according to CGTN.
That shows how far this pest species has penetrated.
And the Post noted that the newly discovered Bermuda area is thought to be a cooler safe haven for organisms seeking to escape heating surface water temperatures. So, this new deep-sea dive didn't just discover new species; it also shed light on how the sea functions in different zones, and what that means for our planet.
These discoveries won't be the last as long as scientists keep diving deeper. Fortunately, per the Telegraph, the Oxford team plans to research the Indian Ocean later in 2018.