Census Releases Deep Sea Findings Beyond Sunlight

Five of the Census’ 14 field projects plumb the ocean beyond sunlight, each dedicated to the study of life in progressively deeper realms – from the continental margins (COMARGE: Continental Margins Ecosystems) to the spine-like ridge running down the mid-Atlantic (MAR-ECO: Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem Project), the submerged mountains rising from the seafloor (CenSeam: Global Census of Marine Life on Seamounts), the muddy floor of ocean plains (CeDAMar: Census of Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life), and the vents, seeps, whale falls and chemically-driven ecosystems found on the margins of mid-ocean ridges and in the deepest ocean trenches (ChEss: Biogeography of Deep-Water Chemosynthetic Systems).

By the time the 10-year Census concludes in October 2010, the five deep-sea projects will have collectively fielded more than 210 expeditions. Revealed via deep-towed cameras, sonar and other vanguard technologies, animals known to thrive in an eternal watery darkness now number 17,650, a diverse collection of species ranging from crabs to shrimp to worms.  Most have adapted to diets based on meager droppings from the sunlit layer above, others to diets of bacteria that break down oil, sulfur and methane, the sunken bones of dead whales, and other implausible foods. For more information about these discoveries, including a full press release, image gallery, and video gallery, visit Press Releases 2009. To view an interview with Scientific Steering Committee Chair, Dr. Ian Poiner, visit CNN.com.