Exploring a deep-sea ridge off Northern California, scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have discovered a unique undersea nursery, where groups of fish and octopus brood their eggs, like chickens on their nests. This is the first time that marine biologists have directly observed any deep-sea fish brooding its eggs. It is also the first time that two different types of mobile deep-sea animals have been observed brooding together in the same area. Although the scientists do not know exactly why the animals prefer this one area, they believe that the nursery represents a new type of biological “hot spot” (an area of intense biological activity).
A blob sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus) peers over the edge of a boulder at the ROV Tiburon. This fish is guarding its eggs (which you can see in the background) along the Gorda Escarpment, off Northern California. Blob sculpin commonly grow to 60 cm (2 feet) in length. The animals on the rock are brisingid sea stars (with the feathery arms) and sea anemones. Image (c) 2002 MBARI
Three octopus (Graneledone sp.) brood their eggs on a rock outcrop along the Mendocino Escarpment, offshore of Northern California. The octopus are in a typical brooding position, with their heads down and arms curled outward. Their eggs are hidden underneath their bodies, which are about 16 cm (6 inches) across. Also on the rock are a deep-sea crab and several types of sea anemones. This photograph suggests some of the abundance and diversity of marine life found around the undersea nursery areas along the Gorda Escarpment off Northern California. Image (c) 2002 MBARI
MBARI scientist Jeff Drazen presented these observations last week at the Deep Sea Biology Symposium in Coos Bay, Oregon. His research is also featured in the current (August 2003) issue of Biological Bulletin, which shows photographs of the brooding fish and octopus on its cover.
The undersea nursery was discovered and documented using MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Tiburon. Using video tapes from Tiburon dives, Drazen and colleagues found that each summer, blob sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus) and deep-sea octopus (Graneledone sp.) gather together at the crest of the Gorda Escarpment, off Northern California.
Debbie Meyer | MBARI
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