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Beyond sunlight: Explorers census 17,650 ocean species between edge of darkness and black abyss
Date:11/22/2009

Northern Gulf of Mexico: an odd transparent sea cucumber, Enypniastes, was videorecorded creeping forward on its many tentacles at about 2 cm (~.8 inches) per minute while sweeping detritus-rich sediment into its mouth. At the end, it blooms into a startling curved shape and swims away to find another meal

See video news release: http://coml.org/embargo/beyond-sunlight

On a just-ended 36-day voyage to the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean, the setting of the 1989, fictional film The Abyss, ChEss explorers were poised to explore the deepest hot-springs on Earth: only to be thwarted by the arrival of tropical storm Ida. Neverthless:

  • Working at depths of greater than 4,000 meters (~2.5 miles): Chris German of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, ChEss co-chair, and colleagues from the US, UK and Japan found evidence for chemically enriched plumes in the water column signaling the presence of seafloor hot vents hundreds of meters deeper still. Funded by NASA's Astrobiology program, the team used WHOI's new hybrid robotic vehicle, Nereus, first as a free-swimming autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and then as a tethered, battery powered remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to track the plume to its source and begin to investigate the seafloor. Bad weather forced the team to break off only hundreds of meters from their target - a search that will now be resumed by ChEss using the UK's AUV Autosub 6000 and ROV Isis in 2010.

On a 2009 voyage to a range of New Zealand seamounts, a CenSeam team found:

  • At 1,000 meters (~.6 miles) and below: abundant vibrant coral gardens in an area of seamounts eerily nicknamed "the Graveyard," where the speed of currents provides ideal habitat for these animals that feed on suspended food. The scientists, who also explored the nearby Andes seamounts, discovered diverse communities living amid the cold
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
Source:Eurekalert  

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