North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats - NC Museum of Natural Sciences Website
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2005 Questions & Answers


Abriana and Greg, eighth graders from Orange county, ask, "How much money do you make when you find a new species?"
Scientists do not make any money from the discovery of new species. They sometimes get naming rights to the new species. Even if they do not get to name the species, their names will always be attached to the scientific name of the animal whenever it is cited in literature.

Amber, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know the most interesting previously unknown organism that has been found.
That would depend on who you asked and what they study. A scientist who studies coral would find a new coral species more interesting than the scientist who studies invertebrates or fish.

To learn if any new species have been discovered during Life on the Edge 2005, read the 11/01/05 Questions and Answers page.

Caitlin, an eighth grader from Orange county, asks, "If you find a new color of an old species, how can you be certain that it is a new color, and not a new species?"
First you have to look at all the other physical characteristics used to define that particular species. You also need to check the original species description to see if color variations are mentioned. Identifying a new species is based on looking at the whole package of physical characteristics and then evaluating how different your animal’s characteristics are compared to those of the previously identified species. There usually is some amount of color variation within a species.

To learn more about how new species are identified, read the 11/01/05 Questions and Answers page.

Siobhan, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know if the changes in pressure affect fish and other organisms you bring up from the deep ocean in the sub.
Deep ocean organisms are adapted to living in an environment of high pressure. Some organisms that migrate vertically up and down the water column can adapt to multiple pressures. Upon catching fish and other organisms, what appears to affect them most is the change in water temperature. Our sampling sites have consistently had temperatures ranging from 7.4–9.6 °C. By contrast, surface water temperatures have hovered around 28 °C. We have not observed any adverse effects on these organisms from a change in pressure as they are brought to the surface.

Alex, an eighth grader from Orange county, wonders how long it takes the Styrofoam cups to shrink.
Shrinkage of Styrofoam cups is not time-dependent; rather the cups shrink due to the amount of pressure exerted upon them. The deeper you go in the ocean, the greater the pressure. The greater the pressure, the more the cups will shrink. At 1,000 feet below sea level, the pressure is almost 500 pounds per square inch. Our dives have all been closer to the 2,000 ft range (i.e. 1,000 pounds per square inch). When we dive, the cups are placed in a mesh bag and attached to the outside of the sub. The cups are retrieved when the sub comes back up on deck.

Look at a picture of Styrofoam cups before and after being taken down to the bottom of the ocean.

Rachel, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know the deepest depth from which you have taken data.
The Johnson-Sea-Link submersible that we have on board can dive to 3,000 feet and that is the deepest depth from which data has been collected. However, on this particular mission we have only needed to go to 2,300 feet to reach the bottom.

Greg, a college student from NC State, wants to know what the toxic sea urchin collected on 10/30/05 eats.
There are many types of sea urchins. Some are found in warm shallow waters and some, like those we have collected, live in the deep ocean. Their particular food intake depends on their specific adaptations and the habitat they live in. In general, sea urchins are herbivorous. Some feed on algae, while others will eat corals when necessary. They can be scavengers as well, feeding on detritus that collects on the ocean floor. Since the sea urchin we collected with the toxic spines was found at a depth beyond sunlight penetration, where neither algae nor plants can live, it most likely feeds on detritus.

Crush, a seventh grader from Burke County, has several questions:

Does a goosefish's lure light up and if so, how?
A goosefish's "lure" is actually a modified dorsal fin spine. There are usually two of these slender spines located at the anterior end of the snout. The foremost, the "lure," is modified into an angling apparatus, usually bearing a fleshy appendage at the tip. Rather than lighting up, the goosefish attracts it prey by dangling its "lure" in the same fashion as a small fish swimming.

Have you seen any angler fish?
The goosefish is a type of angler fish. Together with monkfish, they belong to the family Lophidae. Frogfish, belonging to the family Antennariidae, are also called anglerfish. They too have a dorsal fin spine between their eyes which bears a well-developed terminal bait. We have collected "angler" fish from each of these families.

When a glass sponge's spicules break off, does the sponge grow new ones?
Most sponges have a skeletal system made up of a network of tough protein called sponging, or a network of hard splinters called spicules. Spicules, in the case of the glass sponge, are glass-like needles. The network of spicules gives its body shape just as our skeleton gives our bodies their shape. It is thought by the scientists on board that glass sponges continue to grow throughout their lives, so if some of the spicules break off, the sponges will grow more.

An eighth grader from Orange county wonders what squid eat.
Squid eat fish or other smaller squid. They are fast swimmers and they use their two longest arms to seize their victims. The other eight arms help to hold down the prey and draw it toward the squid’s mouth. The squid then uses its strong parrot-like beak to tear chunks of flesh out of its prey.

Several students wonder, “Where do hermit crabs live and what is their average life span?”
Hermit crabs are arthropods. Some of these crabs live in shallow waters, while others inhabit deep waters. The long-clawed hermit crab, Pagurus longicarpus, is a hermit crab found in shallow water (45 meters/150 feet deep) all along the Atlantic coast. The offshore Giant Red hermit crab, Petrochirus diogenes, is the largest hermit crab in American waters. It lives on sandy bottoms and seagrass flats, from shallow water to a depth of 91 meters (300 feet). Its habitat ranges from North Carolina to Florida and Texas, and in the West Indies. The Star-Eyed hermit crab, Dardanus venosus, lives at the same depths as the Giant Red, though its range is somewhat wider—from North Carolina to Florida, Bermuda, and the West Indies to Brazil. Members of the family Dardanus also live in deep waters. The species Dardanus insignis has been observed killing and removing snails from their shells in order to provide themselves with a home. Pagurus annulipes and Pagurus carolinensis are two other southeastern offshore species, the latter found in deeper waters. These crabs are both smaller than the species previously mentioned. Although not found in South Atlantic waters, two species, the Acadian hermit crab, Pagurus acadianus, and the Hairy hermit crab, Pagurus arcuatus, are both deep-water crabs. P.acadianus ranges from Labrador to the Chesapeake Bay at a depth of 488 meters (1,600 feet); P.arcuatus ranges from the Arctic to Long Island Sound in waters up to 274 meters (900 ft) deep. The lifespan of a hermit crab depends on many factors such as availability of food in its habitat, health of the particular crab, availability of shells, number and types of predators, whether the topography offers protective cover or not, quality of environment (i.e. free from pollutants, etc.), and so forth.

Victoria, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know how tube worms reproduce.
We do not have any tube worm experts on board, so I will give a general answer. From research in books on board the ship it appears that the female releases eggs and the male releases sperm into the water where the two combine. The tube worm's larva is called a trochophore. It is a type of zooplankton that swims, eats, and grows until one day, the adult worm drops out of the covering of the zooplankton and assumes the life of an adult. I encourage you to do more research on this topic as the information given here is general and applies to the whole group of marine worms.

Nate, college student from NCSU, wants to know if you caught any interesting creatures via night lighting.
Unfortunately, since MT and Doni have been on the ship, the waters have been too rough to allow for any night lighting. Previous logs show that a sailfish, a halfbeak, and several flying fish were caught during the first half of the mission.

Carla and Annemarie, eighth grade students from South Africa, wonder if tidal energy affects the deep ocean.
The extraction of energy from the ocean's tides, or waves for that matter, does not impact the deep ocean. With transference of energy, a change in heat could also exist, but that also would have minimal, if any, impact on the deep ocean. This question deals with physics and not biology, so a better source of information might be a physical oceanographer or an engineer.

Livy, a seventh grader from Burke county, wonders what the most interesting fish species that Doni Angell, Educator at Sea, saw on the mission.
The goosefish is probably the coolest one we've collected. In addition to its "lure" appendage on its front dorsal fin, it has dermal dentricles along the edge of its mouth and body. These skin flaps look similar to broccoli florets, as if a garden was growing on the fish!

Leland, a seventh grader from Guilford county, wonders if you miss your families.
Although this time at sea is an incredibly wonderful experience, we cannot help but miss our families, and look forward to being with them again soon.

Shane, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know what you look for when you go down in the sub. Do you have a list of species to collect or observe?
The specific objectives regarding what species to target are determined by what the scientists on board are studying. For example, Dr. Cheryl Morrison is studying the genetics of coral, whereas Dr. Martha Nizinski studies invertebrates. Whoever is diving will look for samples for themselves and the other scientists on board. The scientist in the bow is responsible for telling the pilot which organisms to collect.

Rachel, an eighth grader from Orange county, wonders what organisms you see on the way down to the bottom of the ocean.
Usually, on the way down to the bottom of the ocean, few organisms are seen. Occasionally, before the light from the surface dies out, small fish in schools, or some tiny invertebrates can be detected. For the most part, descending in the ocean is akin to descending into a deep dark cave, into absolute darkness. When the sub's lights are turned on you can see "sea snow" (detritus) which seems to permeate the ocean depths. We often see bioluminescent zooplankton as we ascend in darkness back up to the surface when the dive is through.

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