Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deep-Sea Fish Populations Boom Over the Last 15 Years

27.03.2006


Scientists make progress toward understanding mysteries surrounding animals that live in the dark recesses of the oceans

The largest habitats on Earth are located in the vast, dark plains at the bottom of the ocean. Yet because of their remoteness, many aspects of this mostly unexplored world remain mysterious. New research led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has produced a rare insight into animal populations in the deep sea.

In first-of-its-kind research published in the March issue of the journal Ecology, David Bailey, Henry Ruhl and Ken Smith of Scripps analyzed fish and other marine animals over a 15-year period in the deep sea of the eastern North Pacific Ocean. At the site, the source of one of the longest time-series studies of any abyssal area in the world, the scientists found a threefold increase in fish abundance, an upsurge that appears to have been driven by an increase in the food available to the animals.



Bailey says the study is a unique glimpse into fish populations undisturbed by human influence.

"This is a rare study of a large marine fish population that doesn’t get commercially fished," said Bailey. "Other fish populations have their abundances, body sizes and life histories altered by fisheries activities, so our study probably gives us some information about how fish communities work when they are not driven by human exploitation."

The Ecology study follows research published in 2004 by Ruhl and Smith that showed that significant changes in the deep-sea environment were likely driven by changes at the surface of the ocean by El Niño and La Niña events (See "Scripps Researchers Document Significant Changes in the Deep Sea" at: "http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/article_detail.cfm?article_num=640).

Such oceanographic events, along with longer-term shifting called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, can bring more nutrients to surface waters. While animals near the surface can rapidly benefit, it can be months to years later for changes to extend to the ocean bottom, leading to a proliferation of bottom-dwelling invertebrate animals that make up some part of the food supply of deep-sea fishes.

This appears to have been the case from 1989 to 2004, when the researchers found a nearly three-fold increase in deep-sea fish called grenadiers, animals related to cod that are also known as "rattails." Species included Coryphaenoides armatus, or abyssal grenadier, an animal found worldwide at depths of 2,000 meters and greater, and Coryphaenoides yaquinae, a fish of which little is known and that is found only in the deep North Pacific.

Grenadiers eat a range of foods, from the dead bodies of fish and whales to invertebrates such as worms and crustaceans. The most commonly observed animals on the seafloor include sea cucumbers, sea urchins and brittle stars, and these appeared to form part of the grenadiers’ diet. The researchers used the abundances of these animals as an indicator of food supply to the fish. Large changes in the abundances of these animals were followed by changes in the numbers of fish, with both groups increasing in number over the 15-year study.

The researchers say their results indicate that animals in the deep sea live in an environment in which food supply drives population levels, called a "bottom-up control," rather than a "top-down control" situation in which predator pressure controls prey abundances.

"The predominant trend had been that people thought that fish have a powerful effect on their environment, and they drive the changes in everything else," said Bailey, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps and lead author of the study. "What we’ve seen is the reverse, that fish are responding to a change in their habitat. We think that a lot of fish communities are fundamentally changed by fishing. Our study is really nice in that we are working on populations that have never been fished, so their population dynamics can be seen being driven by natural processes."

Comparing these observations to those for shallow water, the researchers speculate that deep-ocean and shallow-water fish communities’ work differently. A possible reason is that the deep ocean is dependent for its food on material falling from the communities nearer the sea surface; this food supply is smaller and less predictable than that available to most shallow-water fish. The effects of this difference on the dynamics of fish communities are not known, and are being explored using mathematical models as the investigators move forward with this project.

Information for the research paper was derived from "Station M," a study site 136 miles west of the California coast that has been explored by members of Smith’s laboratory since 1989. The researchers obtained images of the animals through a camera mounted on a sled towed across the ocean floor at more than 13,000 feet deep.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship (European Union).

Note to broadcast and cable producers: UCSD provides an on-campus satellite uplink facility for live or pre-recorded television interviews. Please phone or e-mail the media contact listed above to arrange an interview.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at the University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and graduate training in the world. The National Research Council has ranked Scripps first in faculty quality among oceanography programs nationwide. The scientific scope of the institution has grown since its founding in 1903 to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,300, and annual expenditures of approximately $140 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration.

Mario Aguilera | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/article_detail.cfm?article_num=721
http://scripps.ucsd.edu
http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

New creepy, crawly search and rescue robot developed at Ben-Gurion U

19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>