November 22, 2009
The Deep Sea World Beyond Sunlight
From the Edge of Darkness
to the Black Abyss: Marine Scientists
Census 17,500+ Species and Counting
Explorers report deep sea teeming with species that have never known sunlight;
Describing all new species in a cup of deep seafloor mud “a daunting challenge;
”Discovered: jumbo “Dumbo” octopod and its new-to-science cousin;
Video captures “wildcat” tubeworm drilling for oil on ocean floor;
Vibrant coral gardens found amid Pacific “Graveyard” of seamounts;
En route to historic 1st global ocean Census: Oct. 2010
Census of Marine Life scientists have inventoried an astonishing abundance, diversity and distribution of deep sea species that have never known sunlight – creatures that somehow manage a living in a frigid black world down to 5,000 meters (~3 miles) below the ocean waves.
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.
Five of the Census’ 14 field projects plumb the ocean beyond light, 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).
Full press release (PDF)
May 23, 2009
Describing Ocean Life in Olden Days,
Researchers Upend Modern Notions of
“Natural” Animal Sizes, Abundance
Marine historians reconstruct images of past sea life that boggle today’s imagination;
Experts convene May 26-28, Vancouver;
En route to historic 1st global oceans Census, past, present and future: Oct. 2010
Before oil hunters in the 1800s harpooned whales by the score, the ocean between east Australia and New Zealand teemed with about 27,000 southern right whales – roughly 30 times as many as today – according to one of several astonishing reconstructions of ocean life in olden days to be presented at a Census of Marine Life conference May 26-28.
At about the same time, pods of blue whales, 18-foot orca and thresher sharks darkened the waters off Cornwall, England. Blue sharks harassed fishermen along the coast, herds of 12-foot harbour porpoise pursued fish upriver, and dolphins regularly played in waters inshore.
From such diverse sources as old ship logs, literary texts, tax accounts, newly translated legal documents and even mounted trophies, Census researchers are piecing together images – some flickering, others in high definition – of fish of such sizes, abundance and distribution in ages past that they stagger modern imaginations.
Appraising modern marine quality through the narrow window of observations over recent decades perpetuates "skewed perceptions," says Andy Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire, leader of the Census’ History of Marine Animal Population (HMAP) project and chair of the conference.
He says authoritative new insights based on centuries of information are upending modern notions of “natural” marine life sizes, abundance, habitat use and vulnerability.
February 15, 2009
Polar Bears and Penguins May Live At Opposite Poles, But
Census of Marine Life Explorers
Find Hundreds of Identical Species
Thrive in Both Arctic and Antarctic
Researchers in North and South startled to find Polar oceans share 235 species;
Changes in species distribution documented as warmer oceans spur migration;
United by high-speed current, Antarctic benthos revealed as single bioregion;
Smaller species replacing larger ones in some Arctic waters
Polar Year results are milestones towards historic 1st global oceans Census: Oct. 2010
Earth’s unique, forbidding ice oceans of the Arctic and Antarctic have revealed a trove of secrets to Census of Marine Life explorers, who were especially surprised to find at least 235 species live in both polar seas despite an 11,000-kilometer distance in between.
Full press release (PDF)
Additional Information: Arctic and Antarctic Subprojects
Polar Award Recipients
Ocean in Google Earth
Life Under the Ice Video