Researchers find mysterious deep-sea creatures In this Sept., 2016 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a Commerson's frogfish that was found off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island is shown. (NOAA via AP)
Researchers find mysterious deep-sea creatures
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Federal researchers have just returned from an expedition to study the biodiversity and mechanisms of an unusually rich deep-sea ecosystem off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island.
 
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told The Associated Press that the abundance of sea life sampled in a particular stretch of water off the Big Island points to a thriving deep-sea habitat, but they aren't exactly sure why. The area, about a mile off the south shore of Hawaii Island, was full of fish including sawtooth eels, dragonfish and many other mysterious deep-sea creatures.
 
Much of the ocean surrounding Hawaii is among the least productive water in the Pacific, said the expedition's lead researcher Jamison Gove, a NOAA oceanographer.
 
"Yet we know that Hawaii is this biological hotspot," he said. "So there's kind of this paradox: How can you have so much productivity around Hawaii yet the surrounding ocean waters are literally a barren ocean landscape?"
 
Part of the mission's purpose was to pinpoint why the islands, and this location in particular, are so rich in marine diversity, Gove said.
 
They took samples of the area from depths of about 1,500 to 2,000 feet using large trawling nets. They are now assessing those samples in hopes of better understanding potential management and policy needs around the region. They also hope the research will advance understanding of the overall ocean ecosystem, especially the largely unknown and unexplored deep sea areas.
 
Jack Kittinger, the senior director of the Hawaii program at Conservation International, told the AP that the Kona coast is "such a gift," full of spectacular life. Some areas of the world's oceans simply have more life than others, he said, and a combination of factors, such as currents, water temperature and undersea topography, likely all play a role.
 
"We really have to do a good job of managing these special, amazing places, and Kona is absolutely one of them," Kittenger said. "If there's one (hotspot) in Kona, there's probably dozens and dozens of them in other places, including in Hawaii. We just haven't stuck anything down there to find them yet."
 
It will take the researchers up to a year or more to draw their conclusions. But they believe part of the reason for such a rich habitat in this location is the way the seafloor dramatically rises as it reaches the island, bringing nutrients up and creating food for a wide range of sea life.
 
"What we know about the ocean is less than the surface of the moon," Kittinger added.
 
The team also studied surface slicks, which are the narrow, glassy channels of water that are visible in the coastal ocean waters. The researchers found that these ribbons of water create "an oasis in the desert" as they pull together juvenile reef fish, baby sea turtles, plankton and even coral larvae. But the slicks, which are created by wind, tide and undersea structure, also gather other material, such as plastic and land debris that could be hurting the life that exists there.
 
The federal research team was joined by scientists from Bangor University in North Wales, United Kingdom, and the University of Hawaii.
 
Another recent expedition by Conservation International and the University of Hawaii was conducted farther off the coast of the Big Island at a group of seamounts, active and dormant underwater volcanoes similar to the Hawaiian Islands that never reach the surface. The seamounts, like the area studied off the coast of the Big Island, were also rich in marine diversity, likely for many of the same reasons.
 
"There will always be the unexpected when you go into the deep ocean," said Conservation International's Greg Stone, the seamount expedition's lead scientist.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do deep-sea creatures seem mysterious?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (10)
  • kaileew-ste
    10/06/2016 - 09:25 a.m.

    About a mile off the shore of Hawaii, scientists found sawtooth eels, dragonfish and other under water creatures. The point of the experiment was to find out why the area has such a diverse marine life. Another group of scientists found active and dormant underwater volcanoes.

  • jacklynt-ste
    10/06/2016 - 01:57 p.m.

    A lot of the ocean around Hawaii not being productive, its peculiar that off the shore about a mile there are all these deep sea creatures. Scientist have been testing the waters of Hawaii and around Hawaii to see differences to better understand this weird thing that is happening. I think that there is an undiscovered reason for the deep sea creatures in the area of least productive ocean.

  • monicas-ste
    10/07/2016 - 10:08 a.m.

    This is awesome. They need to work on finding more of these cool creatures. I think this could make us look at the world differently.

  • maddyh-ver
    10/07/2016 - 12:07 p.m.

    It's weird to think that over 79% of the world is covered with water, but we've only explored 5% of the oceans. Hopefully some day we'll create a submarine or something that can withstand the deep water pressure.

  • irisp-ste
    10/11/2016 - 01:57 p.m.

    The deep-sea creatures can come off as mysterious because at first, scientists and marine biologists know little information about them. Any kind of new creature can seem mysterious until more is known about it, but it is hard to find in-depth research on animals that live so deep into the ocean.

  • metau-cel
    10/12/2016 - 11:21 a.m.

    Deep sea creatures seem mysterious because they often look different than shallow water thrivers mostly due to the fact of different living environments. Many sea creatures that live in the deep have adaptations to the dark habitats. For example a replacement for lack of sunlight or poison to keep off large deep sea critters. Also they seem mysterious because there is such a diverse group of animals that all live together which is unusual.

  • noahr-ste
    10/14/2016 - 01:02 p.m.

    Deep Sea creatures seem mysterious because we know so little about them. It is also hard to find out anything about them because they live so deep in the ocean. That is why we call them mysterious.

  • rachelw1-lam
    10/28/2016 - 02:30 p.m.

    It's crazy to think that we know more about the moon than we do about our own oceans. Kind of terrifying. Anything could be down there.

  • gracer1-man
    11/03/2016 - 11:08 a.m.

    It is interesting that we know more about the moon than we do about the ocean. It's also very peculiar that there is tons of marine life surrounding Hawaii yet the ocean around it is completely barren. The mission the scientists are focusing on is very important and I hope they are able to complete it. The mission is to understand why there is so much diversity around a certain part of the islands.

  • parkerz-cel
    11/14/2016 - 09:55 a.m.

    Deep sea creatures seem mysterious because they are able to adapt to conditions like no others. Humans are far from being able to live in the deep sea and most likely never will be able to, so when a creature is found it has characteristics that are new and unheard of. For example, humans see other humans and domestic animals/creatures everyday, the characteristics found on these things are all the same because we all live in the same environment so we grow accustom to them. Well when we find an unknown species then we find new characteristics that baffle us and make us curious and what they do to get these characteristics and make us see how they adapt to the deep dark parts of the ocean.

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