2006 Ocean Census Highlights
Lots of interesting discoveries during the 2006 Census of Marine Life (with 19 ocean expeditions). Here are some highlights:
"Hottest - At a thermal vent 3 km below the surface in the equatorial Atlantic, Census researchers found shrimp and other life forms on the periphery of fluids billowing from Earth’s core at an unprecedented marine recording of 407ºC, a temperature that would melt lead easily. Although the species resemble those around other vents, scientists want to study how, surrounded by near-freezing 2ºC water, their chemistry allows them to withstand heat pulses that approach the boiling point – up to 80ºC. Shrimp were seen on the walls of the vent chimney. Others in the habitat include mussels and clams. All somehow tolerate an environment of extreme temperature changes within a few centimeters and high concentrations of heavy metals from the vent fluids.
"Darkest - Southern Ocean census takers revealed an astonishing community of marine life shrouded beneath 700 meters of ice – 200 km from open water. Equally remarkable, sampling of this most remote ocean’s depths during three lengthy cruises yielded more new than familiar species.
"Most - Census fish counters' observation off the New Jersey coast of 20 million fish swarmed in a school the size of Manhattan Island qualifies as most new abundance found. Sound emitted by a new ship-based technology illuminates life in an oceanic area tens of thousands times larger than previously possible. It updates instantaneously and continuously, revealing the extension and shrinking, fragmentation and merging of the island-sized swarms as a person might watch schools of minnows swimming in a brook beneath a bridge.
"Deepest - Sampling 5 km below the surface in the Sargasso Sea, deploying a unique trawl configuration that filtered large volumes of water for rare-but-diverse zooplankton living in the ocean’s deepest depths, Census experts from 14 nations caught these drifting, often soft and elusive animals in a sophisticated net, the MOCNESS. They collected more than 500 species, including 12 likely new species, eating each other at the great depths or living on organic matter falling like snow from above.
"Oldest - Census seamount researchers found a shrimp, believed extinguished 50 million years ago, alive and well on an underwater peak in the Coral Sea. Neoglyphea neocaledonica was nicknamed "Jurassic shrimp" by its discoverers, who say it rivals the find in South Africa and Indonesia of the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish previously known only through fossils." ...
"Largest - Among the many new species discovered by Census participants during 2006, a 1.8 kg (4 lb) rock lobster that Census explorers found off Madagascar may be the largest. Named Palinurus barbarae, the main body spans half a meter. " ...
"Macro microbe - The protozoan that Census explorers of the continental margins discovered in the Nazare Canyon off Portugal differs from the usual protozoans seen swimming in a drop of water under a microscope. The single cell of this fragile new species of Xenophyophore, found at 4,300 m depth, is enclosed within a plate-like shell, 1 cm in diameter, composed of mineral grains.
"Furry crab - Near Easter Island, Census researchers discovered a crab so unusual it warranted a whole new family designation, Kiwaidae. Beyond adding a new family to the wealth of known biodiversity, its discovery added a new genus, Kiwa, named for the mythological Polynesian goddess of shellfish. Its furry or hairy appearance justified its species name, hirsuta.
"A squid that chews - Among the 80,000 organisms – encompassing 354 families, genera and species – that Census deep-sea investigators collected from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was the reference specimen or holotype for a new species of squid: Promachoteuthis sloani. Although collection easily damages the soft cephalopods, the hard beaks are unique to each species, including that of the new squid, which looks quite capable of chewing its food."...
"Scarce in time - An expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge captured 300 fish species, several of them not seen since a 1910 expedition, while others considered rare were found common. The change in abundance could reflect removal of predators, limited sampling in the past, or a change in the weather.
"Absent in space - Census researchers discovered 70 percent of the world’s oceans are shark-free. In an extensive study of the vast abyss below 3,000 m, deep-sea scientists found sharks were almost entirely absent and sought physiological and other explanations. Although many sharks live down to 1,500 m, they fail to colonize deeper, putting them more easily within reach of fisheries and thus endangered status."