Marine Invertebrates

Latest news

A new database describing marine species has been released to assist conservation.
Researchers have discovered 26 species of roundworms that are completely new to science.
A fossilised sponge from New Zealand has been named as one of the top 10 new marine species of 2022.
Researchers have developed New Zealand’s most comprehensive online atlas, providing an overview of nearly 600 marine species, to guide management and conservation of the country’s unique seafloor communities.

Latest videos

Powering diversity in the Ross Sea

Fisheries scientist Dr Pablo Escobar-Flores delves into Antarctic mesopelagic science with a look at the small animals and organisms that help power the amazing diversity of life in the Ross Sea.

Critter of the deep: Gorgon's head

The Gorgon’s Head - Gorgonocephalus

When you think brittle star, you probably imagine a small disc from which five slender simple arms radiate. Compare that to the amazing basket stars, which are brittle stars in the order Euryalida. Their five arms are divided many times resulting in as many as 5000 arm tips. They are also the largest brittle stars measuring up to 70 cm across. Basket stars generally live in the deep sea where they perch on top of rocky outcrops and expand their basket-shaped arms into the current to filter out the goodies it brings. When disturbed the arms curl up and the appearance changes from a bush to tight ball.

The largest group of basket stars are the Gorgon’s heads, Gorgonocephalus brittle stars which refers to the Greek "Gorgos" (Gorgon’s) and "-cephalus" (head) named for fearsome monsters such as Medusa, with snakes for hair whose gaze could turn people to stone.

A first glimpse of life forms from the deep sea...

Basket stars are intricately linked to the discovery of life in the deep oceans. In the mid-1800s, it was still believed that there was no life below around 600m depth (it was called the ‘azoic zone’). Scientists at that time had failed to register that British explorer Sir John Ross in 1818 had already (accidentally) hauled up a basket star (Gorgonocephalus caputmedusae) on a sounding line from more than 1600m depth while sounding the bottom of Baffin Bay in his attempt to find the North West passage.

This and a few other reports prompted the historic round-the-world trip of the HMS Challenger from 1872 to 1876 (which of course also visited New Zealand).

The authors Thurber et al. in a recent paper mention this species as the first species ever sampled from the deep sea while discussing the ecosystem function and services provided by the deep sea.

For more info, visit: https://niwa.co.nz/news-and-publications/blogs/Critteroftheweek/critter-...

Tour of the NIWA Invertebrate Collection with Sadie Mills

The NIWA Invertebrate Collection (NIC) holds specimens from almost all invertebrate phyla. This is a result of about half a century of marine taxonomic and biodiversity research in the New Zealand region, the South West Pacific and the Ross Sea, Antarctica. 

To learn more about it, visit https://niwa.co.nz/our-services/online-services/nic

Critter of the deep - episode 2: Antarctic Octopus

This is a really cute little octopus (Pareledone genus) from cold Antarctic waters, and we have records of them living from 62-2804 m deep.

Octopods have three hearts and contractile veins that pump hemolymph (like blood), which is highly enriched with the blue oxygen transport protein hemocyanin (so they are blue-blooded).

One Pareledone species, P. charcoti, has the highest concentration of hemocyanin in its blood – at least 40 percent more compared to the other species, and ranks amongst the highest levels reported for any octopod.

There are five described species in the genus Pareledone and several undescribed species in this group. It is the most commonly found octopus genus in Antarctica.

NIWA is conducting a five–year study to map changes in the distribution of plankton species in surface waters between New Zealand and the Ross Sea.

Inshore and onshore biodiversity sampling activity is about to commence in the Bay of Islands as the Bay of Islands Ocean Survey 20/20 project enters its next phase.

Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists, plumbing the secrets of a vast underwater mountain range south of New Zealand, captured the first images of a novel “Brittlestar City” that colonized against daunting odds the peak of a seamount – an underwater summit taller than the world’s tallest building.

These endemic freshwater crustaceans are truly living fossils that originated in Gondwana at least 325 million years ago and have changed little morphologically since that time.

The giant squid (Architeuthis), the world’s largest invertebrate, has never been seen alive – until now. A new Discovery Channel special joins an international expedition team in the waters off New Zealand as they succeed in capturing living juvenile specimens for the first time. The juveniles were found in the larval stage, ranging in size from 9 to 13 millimetres. The expedition, fully funded by the Discovery Channel, was undertaken in cooperation with NIWA and led by marine biologist Dr Steve O’Shea.

Recent underwater surveys of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve are revealing the benefits of marine protection.

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All staff working on this subject

Coastal Marine Ecologist
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
Strategy Manager - Coasts & Estuaries
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
Senior Regional Manager - Wellington
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Marine Invertebrate Systematist
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
Regional Manager - Wellington
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Marine Biosecurity Scientist
Fisheries Scientist
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Marine Biology Technician
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Marine Ecology Technician
Marine Ecology Technician
Principal Technician - Marine Biology
Marine Biologist
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