Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor, reports the Associated Press—including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted that as many as 50 new plant and animal species might have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14. More than 100 hours of video and 100,000 photographs, captured using a robotic vehicle with high-definition cameras, were piped to shore in real time by satellite and high-speed internet. Verena Tunnicliffe, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, said the images provided an extraordinary glimpse into one of the globe’s most complex and little-known marine ecosystems. “Stalked sea lilies once covered the ocean, shallow and deep, but now are rare,” she said in a written statement. “I’ve only seen a few in my career. But on this expedition, I was amazed to see them in great diversity.” Likewise, Tunnicliffe has also seen sea spiders before, but those were tiny in comparison, all around one inch long: “The sea spiders … on this mission were huge: eight inches or more across.” One animal captured on video looks like a flower, covered with glasslike needles, but scientists think it is probably a carnivorous sponge. The pink spikes, covered with sticky tissue, appear to capture food as it passes by. Other pictures showed a lavender-colored fish walking on the sea floor and the bright red arms of underwater lilies…

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Maya Prabhu