Diverse benthic communities in the Abyss

For the past year I have worked in the “botcam” deep sea research laboratory in the Marine Science Building at the University of Hawaii Manoa.  I was able to partake in researching unknown communities at 5000 m below the ocean in the Sargasso Sea.  The Sargasso Sea is located east of Georgia, USA in the open Atlantic Ocean.  There has been one previous study researching whether a community exists for vegetative matter in the deep sea as most studies use mackerel bait to attract the fish.  Using a baited-camera system, we dropped cameras down to 5000 m with mackerel bait and the alga, Sargassum sp., on separate drops. The camera system took a photograph every 2 minutes for 24-48 hours, which was later analyzed.

Our research found that an invertebrate community was attracted to the Sargassum sp., which is different from the usual fish community attracted to the mackerel bait.  The main species attracted to the Sargassum sp. was an isopod.  This research has brought new light to what uses phytodetritus and algae that sinks to the benthos, the bottom of the ocean.  However, further research needs to be conducted in order to fully understand the diverse communities in the benthos.

Reference: Flaury, A.G. & J.C. Drazen. 2013. Abyssal Scavenging Communities attracted to Sargassum and fish in the Sargasso Sea. Deep-Sea Research I 72: 141-147.

- Aharon Fleury


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