We just caught several cirrate, or finned, octopods, including a very large specimen of a rarely caught species—the dumbo octopod.
Census of Marine Life Blog
Come aboard as VIMS researchers blog about their 6-week expedition to the deep waters of the North Atlantic. The expedition is part of the Census of Marine Life, a global, 10-year study of the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. Aboard the 208-foot NOAA Fisheries vessel Henry B. Bigelow are professors Mike Vecchione and Tracey Sutton, as well as graduate student C.J. Sweetman. They join a team of scientists from around the nation and world.
The goal of the expedition is to further explore the deep-water ecosystems of the northern mid-Atlantic Ridge, an area last visited by Vecchione and Sutton in 2004 as part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem Project (MAR-ECO). MAR-ECO is a 16-nation effort to survey the waters around the mid-Atlantic Ridge from Iceland to the Azores. It is one of 14 Census of Marine Life field projects.
Vecchione, a NOAA Fisheries researcher and adjunct faculty at VIMS, will serve as the expedition’s Chief Scientist. A world-expert on deep-sea squid, he will be on the lookout for new and unusual squid species to compare to those collected during earlier MAR-ECO cruises. Sutton is aboard the Bigelow as the lead investigator on an NSF-funded project to better understand deep-sea food webs. Sweetman will focus on a food-web analysis of a group of mid-water fishes known as "pencil smelts."
Trawling the bottom of the mid-Atlantic ridge is an arduous task. Think of trying to tow a large net from an airplane along the side of a mountain.
I am especially interested in the diets of a group of mid-water fishes that includes dragonfishes, lightfishes, hatchetfishes, viperfishes, and loosejaws.
All of my reading about deep-sea ecosystem structure and diversity could not even remotely prepare me for what I’m seeing out here in person. I’m definitely not in Georgia anymore.
In perhaps the best trawl to date we capture deep-sea squids, a large octopod, sawtooth eels, angler fishes, and the seldom-seen dealfish.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the expedition thus far is the sheer abundance of critters collected along the abyssal plain adjacent to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
After a week of steaming, a port call for a replacement part, and three events in the Bigelow Olympics, we have finally arrived at our first sampling station in the North Atlantic.
We departed from Newport, RI on June 12th and have been steaming ever since. Our destination: the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone on the mid-Atlantic Ridge.