The underwater remains of a ship lost in battle more than 2,000 years ago off the coast of Sicily is now teeming with marine life.
Italian researchers found 114 marine animal species coexisting on remains of the warship that sunk during a fight between the Romans and Carthaginians.
The trove of life includes different types of snails, slugs, mollusks, worms and underwater moss creatures, all of which are located on the ram of the sunken a Carthaginian ship.
The ship sank on March 10, 241 BC during a sea battle near the Aegadian Islands off northwestern Sicily.
A fleet equipped by the Roman Republic destroyed a fleet from Carthage, ending the First Punic War in Rome’s favor – but the carnage made has now produced ‘a rich flowering of marine life.’
The underwater remains of a ship lost in battle more than 2,000 years ago off the coast of Sicily is now teeming with marine life
The ram, nicknamed ‘Egadi 13’, was recovered in 2017 from the seabed around 295 feet deep by marine archeologists from the Soprintendenza del Mare della Regione Sicilia, directed by Dr Sebastiano Tusa, in collaboration with divers from the organization Global Underwater Explorers.
But a recent analysis revealed the marine life thriving on the ancient ship remains.
Last author Dr Sandra Ricci, a senior researcher at Rome’s ‘Istituto Centrale per il Restauro’ (ICR), said in a statement: ‘Shipwrecks are often studied to follow colonization by marine organisms, but few studies have focused on ships that sank more than a century ago.’
Ricci and colleagues found a species-rich community, structurally and spatially complex, with 114 living invertebrate species.
The ram is a little more than two feet long, about one inch thick at the front edge and weighs nearly 375 pounds. And because the ram is hollow, it has accumulated organisms and sediments inside as well as outside
Italian researchers found 114 marine animal species coexisting on remains of the warship that sunk during a fight between the Romans and Carthaginians
THE FIRST PUNIC WAR
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between the Phoenicians of Carthage and Rome in the early third century BC.
The longest naval war of antiquity, the conflict raged from 264–241 BC in the waters around Sicily and North Africa.
It began when Roman forces gained a foothold on Sicily and, allied with the people of Syracuse, laid siege to the Carthaginian’s main base on the island, that of Akragas.
Following this, Rome built a navy to rival that of the Phoenicians’ and, after a series of minor victories, launched an invasion of North Africa which was intercepted at the Battle of Cape Ecnomus — in what many consider, by the number of combatants, to be the largest naval battle of all time.
Beaten, Carthage sued for peace, but fought on after rejecting the Roman’s harsh terms for such.
After several years of effective stalemate, the Roman forces deployed a successful blockade of the garrisons at Drepana and Lilybaeum.
Carthage dispatched a fleet in 241 BC to relieve their outposts, but this was intercepted and bested at the Battle of the Aegates — in which the nimble Roman vessels deployed battering rams against their opponents to devastating effect.
In the wake of the battle, Carthage sued for peace, ultimately surrendering Sicily to Roman control.
These included 33 species of gastropods, 25 species of bivalves, 33 species of polychaete worms, and 23 species of bryozoans.
Coauthor Dr Edoardo Casoli from Rome’s Sapienza University, said in a statement: ‘We deduce that the primary ‘constructors’ in this community are organisms such as polychaetes, bryozoans, and a few species of bivalves. Their tubes, valves, and colonies attach themselves directly to the wreck’s surface.’
‘Other species, especially bryozoans, act as ‘binders’: their colonies form bridges between the calcareous structures produced by the constructors. Then there are ‘dwellers’, which aren’t attached but move freely between cavities in the superstructure. What we don’t yet know exactly is the order in which these organisms colonize wrecks.’
Corresponding author Dr Maria Flavia Gravina concluded: ‘Younger shipwrecks typically host a less diverse community than their environment, with mainly species with a long larval stage which can disperse far.
‘By comparison, our ram is much more representative of the natural habitat: it hosted a diverse community, including species with long and short larval stages, with sexual and asexual reproduction, and with sessile and motile adults, who live in colonies or solitary.
‘We have thus shown that very old shipwrecks such as our ram can act as a novel kind of sampling tool for scientists, which effectively act as a ‘ecological memory’ of colonization.’
Egadi 13 is constructed out of a single, hallow piece of bronze and is engraved with an undeciphered Punic inscription – the ancient language of Carthaginians that was only found in the Mediterranean.
The ram is a little more than two feet long, about one inch thick at the front edge and weighs nearly 375 pounds.
And because the ram is hollow, it has accumulated organisms and sediments inside as well as outside.
The Romans and Carthaginians went to war in in 264 BC in what is called the First Punic War.
The civilizations battled for control of the western Mediterranean Sea.
The ship sank on March 10, 241 BC during a sea battle near the Aegadian Islands off northwestern Sicily
These included 33 species of gastropods, 25 species of bivalves, 33 species of polychaete worms, and 23 species of bryozoans
The war on March 10 was called the Battle of Aegusa, which saw the Roman fleet sink 50 Carthaginian ships that led to the end of the First Punic War.
Accounts also say the Romans captured 70 more ships, although at the cost of 30 of their own ships and damage to 50 more.
It is thought that the fleets of both sides originally numbered some 200 vessels.
Rome became the dominant navy in the Mediterranean Sea, forcing Carthage to pay for war damages, and Rome took control of all of the Carthaginian lands on the island of Sicily.
Pictured: the location of Cartage, with the extent of the Carthaginian Empire in blue
Ancient Carthage was a Phoenician civilization centered around Carthage, on the Gulf of Tunis, which founded by colonists from Tyre in 814 BC.
At its height during the fourth century BC, the city-state became the largest metropolis in world, with an empire that dominated the western Mediterranean.
It had a mercantile network that extended from north Europe down to west Africa and across to west Asia.
Far less is known about Carthage’s peoples than those of ancient Rome or Greece, as most indigenous records were destroyed — along with the city — following the Third Punic War in 146 BC.
Their victory in this conflict paved the way for the Roman civilization to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean.