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

water corals, including invertebrates like sponges and seastars and a species of worm that lives within the branches of bamboo corals (Family Isididae), modifying how the corals grow.

On a 2009 voyage to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean a CeDAMar team trapped deep-sea life:

  • At about 500 meters (~.3 miles): the Antarctic's first recorded whalebone-eating worm, Osedax. Seventeen species had been reported on other fallen whales in such places as the shallow northeast Atlantic off Sweden, the northeast Pacific off California and the northwest Pacific off Japan. CeDAMar scientists attached whalebone snacks to two vehicles and parked them 550 and 630 meters (~.34-.39 meters) deep near Smith Island near the West Antarctic Peninsula. When they raised the parked vehicles after 14 months, they found the same creatures in the Southern and Antarctic Oceans. Analyzing the populations crowded onto the parked vehicles they found new species of the whalebone-eating genus Osedax. A mat of chemosynthetic microbial fauna and the small marine worm Ophryotrocha that eats bacterial mats covered the raised vehicles.

Diversity and abundance in mud: the living skin of the abyss

On the abyssal floor, the deep mud contains biodiversity that escapes detection by video and photography since most of the animals are only a few millimeters in size and hide among the sediment particles.

"Some scientists have likened deep mud's biodiversity to that of tropical forests. In college I was taught that high biodiversity is a function of habitat diversity - many nooks and crannies. It is, however, hard to imagine anything as monotonous, nook-less and cranny-less as deep-sea mud," says Dr. Carney.

Sometimes, the vast majority of creatures collected in mud from the abyssal plains are new to science, says CeDAMar expert David Billett of UK's National Oceanography Centre.

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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
Source:Eurekalert  

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