The deep sea is a strange and scary place, being one of the last great unexplored habitats on our planet. But technology is developing that lets us glimpse the bottom of the ocean and even listen to its sounds. Now a team from the Schmidt Ocean Institute in Palo Alto, California, have shared remarkable images from their expeditions to the depths.
The research vessel Falkor was sent out off the coast of Costa Rica to collect information about deep sea ecosystems, looking in particular at natural gas seeps and other areas which host specialized biological communities. The team look at life of all sizes, from tiny microbes to full sized fish and corals, and found a delicate balance between creatures of all kinds. They found at least four new species of deep-sea corals, as well as new animals that scientists had not observed before.
And best of all, they took amazing photos.
The team hopes that the results of their survey of the corals and the complex communities that they play host to can be used to support the creation of a new protected marine area to keep the environments safe from fishing or mining.
“This new research will support Costa Rica’s efforts to conserve these important habitats by providing a baseline of the incredible species and ecosystems found in the deeper areas that don’t always attract the attention that they deserve,” Schmidt Ocean Institute co-founder Wendy Schmidt said in a statement. “One of the most important things we can do right now is to understand how these communities work, so, if there are changes in the future, we can measure human impact.”
The data was collected in part using SuBastian, a Remotely Operated Vehicle also called a remote controlled submarine, which is lowered from a ship and is piloted from above as it descends into the ocean.
“Every dive continues to amaze us,” said Dr. Erik Cordes of Temple University, the expedition leader. “The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth. Understanding how that habitat functions will help us to understand how the planet as a whole works.”