Deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, sunlight cannot permeate and temperatures are close to freezing. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that little has historically been known about the creatures living there.

But with help from the energy industry, marine scientists are gradually unveiling more secrets about underwater life.

Shell and other energy companies have offered access to underwater robots known as Remote Operating Vehicles (ROVs), which are controlled from the surface and equipped with cameras, powerful beams of light and robotic arms. The machines are capable of exploring life thousands of metres below sea level, and have led to the discovery of new species.

“These underwater vehicles are our eyes in the sea,” says Mark Benfield, Professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University in the USA. “They enable us to explore the largest habitat on the planet, most of which is still unknown to science.”