Millions of mysterious eggs discovered atop an underwater volcano near Haida Gwaii

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A team of scientists have discovered a unique underwater nursery, nearly a kilometre deep, with unusually warm temperatures.

Using a submersible and a Canadian Coast Guard vessel, a team of researchers were recently tasked with exploring B.C.’s underwater peaks, or “seamounts.” What the sub’s camera caught near the south coast of Haida Gwaii surprised everyone watching from above.

Hundreds of large Skate eggs covered the top of an extinct volcano.

“We were only in a small part of the summit, so we’ve calculated that there could be close to millions of eggs on this seamount,” says Heidi Gartner with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The eggs weren’t the only shocking discovery caught on camera.

“We came across footage of a female actually in the midst of laying an egg, which was incredible,” recounts Gartner. “And then we collected a specimen so that we can bring them back to the museum.”

The Royal BC Museum acts as a repository for scientific discoveries in the province.

“So our curator of fishes, Gavin Hanke, was able to confirm the IDs of these two different Skate species,” explains collections manager Hugh MacIntosh with the Royal BC Museum. “The Pacific White Skate and the Boreal Skate.”

The discoveries kept coming.

“We noticed some very strange shimmering kind of near some rocks and some interesting colouring,” says Gartner. “So we took out the temperature probe that we have on this robot, and it actually is warmer than it’s supposed to be. It’s a hydrothermal venting seamount, which we have never discovered before in Canadian waters.”

Skate eggs can take up to four years to hatch.

“So maybe the warm water can actually speed up that process, giving a better chance for the babies to survive,” says Gartner.

The Royal BC Museum will keep the samples in their collection where they are publicly available for future research.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic discovery for B.C.,” says MacIntosh. “It’s a first for B.C., it’s a first for Canada, and it’s maybe only the second time in the world this has ever been seen.”

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