10/18/05 - Diving for Lophelia
We spent part of last night running transects and recording the ship's sonar in an attempt to locate potential Lophelia reef sites. We chose a site and sent the sub down this morning with Cheryl Morrison in the bow and Liz Baird in the stern. Their goal was to collect Lophelia specimens from several locations. We know that Lophelia occurs in the deep water of most oceans and that Lophelia reefs provide habitat for other animals. We don't know the locations of most of the reefs or whether the reefs are related to each other. We are interested in finding out if coral larvae (juvenile coral) disperse to new areas or whether they tend to settle and grow close to home. Cheryl is going to compare Lophelia DNA to get an estimate of dispersal between reefs.
One of the most exciting sights during Tuesday morning's dive was a large ray. Initially, we thought it was a manta ray but after returning to the surface we discovered that it could have been either a manta ray (Manta bisostris) or a devil ray (Mobula hypostoma). Both of these are large rays with two forward projecting fins that almost look like horns. They have tremendous size and power but feed on plankton and small fishes. We caught only a glimpse of a large ray with a light underside and a dark top, so we cannot say for sure which ray we saw.
We also collected a blackbelly rosefish which does not really have a blackbelly. Its body is pale red with some dark markings and a very noticeable dark area at the base of its fin. It usually has 11 to 13 spines. Blackbelly rosefish are found from Maine to Argentina as well as in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the western Mediterranean Sea. This fish can be up to 12 inches in length.
To learn more about Lophelia, visit Lophelia.org, a comprehensive cold-water coral resource that collates information on the deep-sea, cold-water coral ecosystems, biodiversity, and key species. The site features a large kid's zone and free cold-water coral and deep-sea screen savers.
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