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 Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

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: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>