Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deep-sea exploration beneath Katrina’s wake

02.09.2005


A scene from Viosca Knoll


Image from video of world’s first known fluorescent shark


Expedition team dodges storm and returns to gulf seafloor

Despite having to evade hurricane Katrina, a team of scientists from Harbor Branch and other institutions is returning to port this Sunday with new tales from the deep after completing their second annual Deep Scope expedition. The group has discovered a mysterious visual capability in a deep-sea crab; captured new video of a large, recently discovered squid species; and took clear video of the world’s first known fluorescent shark. The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funded the mission to sites around the Gulf of Mexico.

The expedition, which began Aug. 19, is taking place aboard Harbor Branch’s Seward Johnson research vessel and the Johnson-Sea-Link I submersible, capable of diving to depths up to 3,000 feet. The mission’s overall purpose is to use a variety of new technologies to gain a better view of deep-sea life, and to understand how that life itself views the deep sea.



The team has targeted hardbottom landscapes such as a coral mound about 200 miles west of Tampa and the Viosca Knoll, about 140 miles southeast of New Orleans. Though the team was able to conduct dives at both locations early on, hurricane Katrina forced them to run for Galveston, Tex., where they took shelter for 3 days before heading back out.

The ship’s crew took special precautions as they cruised from Texas back to the Viosca Knoll to avoid hurricane debris. They encountered extensive garbage, but nothing that threatened the ship. They also saw signs of damage on oil rigs and heard reports from other ships that all rigs within a 50-mile-wide swath beneath the hurricane’s path appeared to be thrashed beyond operable condition.

Amidst calm seas, submersible dives resumed today and will continue through Saturday, Sept. 3, offering ample opportunity for additional discoveries.

"Considering that a category 5 hurricane just went through this area, I’m surprised that we can be out here and diving again so soon," says Chief Scientist Tammy Frank, a visual ecologist from Harbor Branch, "it really is astonishing how quickly the seas have laid down."

Frank has been conducting detailed studies of how the eyes of animals on the deep seafloor work, in collaboration with others aboard. Working with animals collected in special light-tight devices that avoid damage to delicate deep-sea eyes, Frank has discovered a species of deep-sea crab that can detect ultra-violet light, despite there being no known ultraviolet light in deep water. UV sensitivity is common in animals that live closer to the surface, but has never been discovered in a deep species. The reasons for this seemingly bizarre ability are not clear, but the sensitivity could point to a deep-sea light source about which researchers are not aware, or to some unknown characteristic of known light sources such as bioluminescence--the light chemically produced by countless open ocean organisms.

One key instrument used on the expedition to help humans see in the deep sea is the prototype Eye-in-the-Sea camera system, which was designed by Edith Widder, former Harbor Branch senior scientist who recently founded Ocean Recon in Ft. Pierce, Fla. This system is deployed on the seafloor using the submersible and left for 24-hour or longer intervals to film animals and activities using very low levels of infrared light virtually invisible to deep-sea animals. This allows an exceptionally sensitive intensified camera to capture natural behaviors and footage of animals that have evaded scientists that used other, more disruptive tools such as relatively loud ROVs and submersibles with their bright lights.

Last year, the system captured footage of a six-foot squid believed to be a new species. This year, at a site hundreds of miles away, the camera caught footage of what appears to be the same species, which would suggest that the squid is not rare, and would also illustrate how poorly explored the deep sea remains if such a large animal could have gone undiscovered. The squid appears to have been attracted by a flashing light lure designed to mimic a deep-sea jellyfish’s bioluminescent display. Much remains unknown about how animals use bioluminescence, and one of the key goals for Eye-in-the-Sea beyond basic observation is to use the bioluminescence lure and other techniques to learn how animals use the light they produce.

Based in large part on the success of last year’s expedition, Widder has been awarded a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to build a more advanced Eye-in-the-Sea in collaboration with Harbor Branch engineers, a project now underway.

Prior to the hurricane, the Deep Scope team was also exploring fluorescence given off by deep-sea animals. Fluorescence occurs when an animal or object absorbs light of one color and then reemits light of, or glows, another color. In the ocean, detecting fluorescence can allow scientists to spot animals that would otherwise be too effectively camouflaged to see. Fluorescence is also important because the proteins that allow animals to fluoresce are used in genetic research and new fluorescent animals may contain proteins that offer novel benefits in such work.

Mike Matz, of the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory in St. Augustine, and others aboard are using powerful lights mounted on the front of the submersible to illuminate animals whose fluorescence is then captured on the sub’s video camera using a filter that blocks non-fluorescent light reflected back.

Last year, using this technique, the group discovered the world’s first fluorescent shark, a previously known species called a chain dogfish whose fluorescence had never been observed. To their dismay, though, the team was unable to capture the fluorescence clearly on film. During this year’s expedition, Matz was ecstatic when he came upon a shark kind enough to rest on the bottom in front of the sub, allowing him to record incredible video footage of the animal’s intricate fluorescent pattern, not unlike that of the fictional glowing "jaguar" shark in the film The Life Aquatic, which it may be worth noting came out months after the team made its discovery.

Daily dispatches from the expedition team and extensive background material on their work is posted at oceanexplorer.noaa.gov, with additional materials at www.at-sea.org.

Mark Schrope | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hboi.edu
http://www.at-sea.org
http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>