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How the ocean's most mysterious deep-sea creatures are helping combat climate change

Deep sea creatures and global climate
Scientists connect the health of deep sea creature populations with global climate 06:13

Transparent jellies, fish that attract prey with "fishing poles" on their head, and pancake-shaped octopuses all call the deep sea home.  

In the Monterey Bay, an underwater robot is searching for these elusive creatures. 

The creatures found are displayed at the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium's new exhibition, "Into the Deep." The exhibit took five years to complete. The design is filled with pipes, pumps, and filters to help replicate a deep-sea environment.  

"This exhibit is an opportunity for visitors to see animals that no one has ever seen before," Monterey Bay Aquarium's Vice President of Exhibitions Beth Redmond-Jones, told CBS News' senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy. 

Tommy Knowles and his team spend their time looking for some of the creatures in an area that Knowles said is "really far from the surface but also really far from the bottom." 

"The animals we're looking for in the midwater are a little bit more of these squishy weirder looking animals," he said. 

The deep-sea creatures are also found in an area known as the "oxygen minimum zone." The underwater robot often travels 3,000 feet below the surface. The visibility on the way down is muddied by marine snow which includes clutters of fish scales, whale poop, and microplastics from humans. 

In these depths, the researchers have found a vampire squid—a rare brightly colored jellyfish. Another rare find is a barreleye fish with a transparent domed head revealing and upward-facing eyes. It has been seen by humans fewer than 10 times. 

The robot is controlled remotely by a control room located on a ship that floats along the California coast. It's during one of their trips that they find a jellyfish so rare, it doesn't even have a name.  

They extend the robot's arm and, using suction, they capture the creature, which is being referred to as "Red X", in a container.  

They also find a Red Paper Lantern jellyfish and another jellyfish referred to as the bloody-belly comb jelly. 

The team rushes to transport their finds into larger jars inside a makeshift lab.  

Marine life is key to keeping a lot of earth's carbon out of the atmosphere. Without this ocean ecosystem, scientists say the planet would have overheated already. 

"The ocean has taken up more than 90% of the heat produced by global warming. And every year it sequesters about 25% of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. So, the ocean provides critical life support," Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Senior Scientist and Science Chair, Kelly Benoit-Bird, said.  

Scientists are studying the role deep-sea creatures play as millions of them rise from the depths at night to feed in the cover of darkness. 

By feeding on plants and marine animals near the surface, the creatures might be responsible for sequestering up to half of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean, scientists say. 

"We're trying to understand exactly how much of a role this migration plays and what affects it," Benoit-Bird said. 

That comes with a cost—climate experts find that oceans are becoming more acidic and rapidly warming. This is believed to be making storms stronger and more deadly. It could also impact the ocean life which is working overtime to protect our planet. 

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