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Life out at Sea

by Zosia Ridley

Given that more than half of the earth is underwater, it comes as no surprise that the majority of life on Earth is held within the depths of the oceans. Life on land expands from a few feet below the ground to the tops of trees and mountains, but in our ocean, it can go the deepest, darkest depths of the earth. To be exact, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean reaches nearly seven and a half miles down. Compared to the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest is almost five and a half miles tall. If you were to place Mount Everest at the bottom of this trench, its peak would still be 7,000 feet below sea level, according to National Geographic.

The oceans covering more than 70% of the earth’s surface is a universal fact, but if that is the case, then why do we know so little about it? Scientists have explored less than 5% of oceans, leading us to a terrifying realization that we hardly know what could be out there. However, in 2020 on an expedition exploring the submarine canyons of Ningaloo, Australia, scientists discovered what they think could be the longest animal ever recorded.

Previously, scientists believed Lion’s mane jellyfish to be the longest organism to have ever lived at an astounding 120 feet length, while the most massive creature, the blue whale, measures nearly up to 100 feet. However, being more than 150 feet long, a giant siphonophore of the genus Apolemia was found floating in water approximately 2,000 feet beneath the surface. This relative of jellyfish and coral is made up of small specialized cells called zooids. These cells work together to create a functional colony and appear to us as one long gelatinous string. These zooids clone themselves thousands of times to produce this stringlike mass, coiled in a giant spiral suspended in the water. Dr. Wilson, a senior research scientist, documented this organism with the help of her colleagues and a remotely piloted deep-sea robot. She explained the sighting as looking “like an incredible U.F.O.” and later said, “It’s just magic [to be] there and [share] those things for the first time.”

Every day, we are learning more about our planet, but with this knowledge only comes more questions that need answering. The land is only inhabited by a sliver of life on Earth because it is truly an ocean planet, and however much we think we know about life, we may never know how much more there is to discover.

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