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Two-month study of life in mid-Atlantic yields trove of species, new insights & questions

Exploring life in the mid-Atlantic at various depths down to 4 km (2.5 miles), 60 scientists from 13 countries on a two-month expedition have surfaced a wealth of new information and insights, stunning images and marine life specimens, several thought to be species never before known to science.

Using remotely-operated deep-sea vehicles, hydroacoustics and other technologies for sampling and observation, the Norwegian-led MAR-ECO Expedition (http://www.mar-eco.no), part of the 10-year, $1 billion Census of Marine Life (www.coml.org), has captured or recorded rare and potentially new species of squid and fish, measured the abundance of life, and advanced knowledge of - while raising new questions about - many other aspects of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge ecosystem.

Among the scientists' discoveries and interests:

  • The unexpected diversity of animal communities in mid-water and along the bottom in a major section of the global system of mid-oceanic ridges. Thus far recorded, using an arsenal of methods and technologies: about 300 fish species, 50 squids and octopods, and an unknown number of planktonic species yet to be identified;

  • Rings of planktonic organisms, observed by echosounders, massed by underwater forces into circular swarms measuring more than 10 km wide, an example of underwater "physical-biological coupling" and thought to be the largest such phenomenon ever recorded;

  • Repeated observations of a reef-building, cold-water coral known as Lophelia pertusa. While no major reefs were found, the species was documented for the first time along this section of the mid-Atlantic Ridge;

  • New insights into the significance and ecology of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone, a mid-Atlantic oasis of life, and the Sub-Polar Front.

  • A new deep-sea mystery in the form of burrows left by an animal at 2000 meters on a seamount
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Contact: Terry Collins
collins1@sympatico.ca
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
5-Aug-2004


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