New Species of Red Algae Discovered in Iceland

Schizymenia jonssonii red algae Iceland

A previously unknown species of red algae or Rhodophyta has been discovered in Iceland. According to a press release from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, the species was first found just before 1900 on the country’s west coast but was misidentified. It has now been proven to be a formerly unknown species with its closest relatives in the North Pacific.

The algae, which has been named Schizymenia jonssonii in memory of Icelandic phycologist Sigurður Jónsson, is bladelike and can grow to about 35cm (13.7in) long and 10-25cm (3.9-9.8in) wide. It is relatively common near the southwest and west coast of Iceland, along the Northwest peninsula, and has been found at one location along the colder north coast.

“The eastern North Atlantic is probably the best-studied ocean area in the world due to a long history of intensive scientific research in northern Europe,” the press release reads. “It was, therefore, a surprise that this relatively large and conspicuous species had not been identified before.”

MFRI is currently experimenting with growing the algae as a food supplement in collaboration with Hyndla ehf.

Unidentified Creature Found on Iceland’s Ocean Floor

unidentified species

Recently taken pictures of Iceland’s sea floor revealed rich and varied wildlife, and even a mystery creature that remains unidentified. The pictures were taken on a research expedition in late June and early July, and show Iceland’s seabed is remarkably full of life. Though extensive research is conducted on fish in Icelandic waters, very little research has been done on the sea floor and its inhabitants, which, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute asserts, are an important part of the marine food chain.

Wide variety of organisms

Sea cucumbers, starfish, sponges, coral, and bacteria were just some of the organisms found and photographed on the recent expedition. Pictures were taken both within fishing zones and untouched areas at a depth of 100-700m (330-2,300ft). The seabed and its organisms proved diverse. In Jökuldjúp, west of the Reykjanes peninsula, for example, the sea floor was mostly clay and sand and the sea cucumber Laetmogone violacea was widespread. Sponges, on the other hand, made their homes where the seabed was harder.

[/media-credit] A field of sea pens.

Researchers were unsurprised to find healthy coral reefs on steep areas of the continental shelf off the south coast. In areas where fishing is permitted, however, dead coral reefs were present and some coral which had previously existed was now gone.

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Mystery species

The expedition also caught a picture of an animal unfamiliar to researchers, who have yet to identify it. The creature in question is light blue in colour, with a large, square foot and two rows of tendrils. “There are over 3,000 known species of bottom feeders around Iceland but only a fraction of them has been photographed to date,” the Institute revealed in a press release. “Whether this animal belongs to any of these known species or whether it’s a new species in Iceland we do not yet know.”

unidentified species
[/media-credit] An unidentified seabed organism.

By mapping habitats on the seabed, researchers hope to better understand the importance and prevalence of sea floor ecosystems, and thus determine their potential function or use, as well as whether they need to be protected.