August 28, 2009

New marine life found in mile-long cave

A crustacean with poisonous fangs and no eyes has been discovered in an underwater cave in the Canary Islands, researchers in Texas said.

Tom Iliffe, a marine biologist at Texas A&M, Galveston, discovered the crustacean, and worms smaller than a grain of rice, in a mile-long underwater cave in Lanzarote, the university said in a release Friday.

Iliffe, a renowned cave researcher, discovered the marine life while exploring the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest known underwater lava tube, the university said.

Iliffe, assisted by researchers from Spain and Germany, found the sea creatures in total darkness in a cave formed by a volcanic eruption nearly 20,000 years ago, Iliffe said.

The blind, nearly transparent, crustacean -- named Speleonectes atlantida -- is about 1-inch long and has venom injecting fangs on its head, Iliffe said.

"It likely had its origins during early stages of the formation of the

Atlantic Ocean millions of years ago," Iliffe said.