The next challenge was keeping the deep-sea animals alive once they reached the surface. The deep sea is almost pitch black, with crushing pressure, near-freezing water, little oxygen, and sparse food. These conditions seem daunting to us, but they are ideal for deep-sea animals that have had millions of years to adapt to these harsh conditions. For such animals, it is our bright, busy world that is a dangerous, alien environment.
Once again MBARI's research helped address this challenge. As Grasse explained, "We do the best we can to replicate an animal's natural environment. In this case, we used data on deep-sea oxygen concentrations, water temperature, and salinity collected by MBARI's ROVs to help us figure out what conditions the animals might need." Similarly, video from ROV dives helped the aquarists understand how the animals typically behavedfor example, how much time they spent resting or swimming.
When it came to deciding what to feed the animals, the team looked at scientific studies examining the gut contents of dissected animals. In the case of the vampire squid, MBARI researchers only recently discovered that they use a sticky string-like filament to collect tiny particles of "marine snow" that sink down from the surface. Since the aquarists did not have a reliable supply of marine snow, they filled a blender with chilled seawater, fish eggs, krill, and bits of moon jelly, creating a glutinous slurry that they presented to the vampire squid using a turkey baster.
"Cephalopods are particularly sensitive, not just to environmental conditions, but also to diet," Grasse said. "With many of these animals, we're learning as we go. And we're definitely getting better over time."
"Aquarists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium don't shy away from challenges," he added. "It's part of the job."
But keeping the animals alive was only half the battle. Aquarists also had to figure out how to successfully prese
|Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett|
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute