Tag Archives: deep sea

How Dead Whales Form Unique Ecosystems

A young octopus (Graneledone verrucosa) moves across the seafloor. Observed during the Okeanos Explorer Northeast U.S. Canyons 2013 expedition. (Image Credit: NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image cropped)

In nature every death brings new life. A fascinating example are whale-falls: when a whale dies, its carcass will sink down to the ocean floor where it creates a unique ecosystem for bottom-dwelling organisms. Whales’ bodies can weigh up to 200 tons and contain massive amounts of fat and proteins. When a dead whale reaches the ocean floor it brings a lot of resources to an environment which is usually limited by food availability. The fortunate creatures experiencing the whale-fall welcome such a great source of nutrition, and use up everything they can, until the last vertebra is decomposed. 

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Consider the Copepod: Researching the Base of the Food Web (with Dr. Nancy Mercado-Salas)

Image Credit: Andrei Savitsky (left and right), CC BY-SA 4.0 ; Uwe Kils (centre), CC BY-SA 3.0

The deep sea is a wondrous world of biodiversity, darkness, and mysteries we still know very little about. Despite the fact that we rely on the deep sea as a sink for carbon dioxide – and increasingly as a source of natural gases and minerals – we have very little understanding of how our actions will affect its intricate food web.

Near the base of the food web sits an incredibly diverse group of animals called copepods. They are so abundant and have such sweeping variety that we are still struggling to come up with a way to classify them. Dr. Nancy Mercado-Salas has worked with these tiny creatures since her bachelor’s thesis, both in freshwater and in marine ecosystems, and her message is clear: We need to increase our knowledge on this group of animals before it is too late.

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Venturing Into The Earth’s Great Unknown: The Mesopelagic Zone

Deep-sea species like the ones seen here are not well studied, yes their habitats are under threat now, before we've even been able to identify many of them (Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd., CC BY 4.0)

Drawing of deep-sea fishes by ‘Résultats des Campagnes Scientifiques’ (1889) by Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1848–1922). (Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd., CC BY 4.0, Image Cropped)

If you were asked what the largest and most common habitat on Earth is, you may intuitively think of forests, grasslands or deserts. When you think of the least explored regions, pictures of some far-off rainforest may come to mind.

Introducing: the deep sea, covering over 70% of our planet, and arguably the most unexplored environment on Earth, which is simultaneously highly vulnerable and currently threatened by human activities.

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