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. It is located 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 is about a mile off the south shore of Hawaii Island. It was full of fish. These include 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. This is according to the expedition's lead researcher, Jamison Gove. He is 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. To capture the samples, they used large trawling nets. The scientists are now assessing those samples. They hope to better understand potential management and policy needs around the region. They also hope the research will advance understanding of the overall ocean ecosystem. They are focused on the largely unknown and unexplored deep-sea areas.
 
Jack Kittinger is the senior director of the Hawaii program at Conservation International. He told the AP that the Kona coast is "such a gift."  It is full of spectacular life. Some areas of the world's oceans simply have more life than others, he said. 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. This brings nutrients up. It creates 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. These 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. It was at a group of seamounts. These are 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. He is 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 (110)
  • audreyb-stu
    10/05/2016 - 02:36 p.m.

    I think this was a cool story I never would have known half the things that it said in this story. I hope that I learn more about this.

  • ethans2-stu
    10/05/2016 - 02:42 p.m.

    that is soooo cool its like the mariana trentch but cooler!

  • paigek-stu
    10/05/2016 - 03:02 p.m.

    I think this is really cool because there is many things in the ocean that we havent explored yet and they're so many that would probly be really cool.

  • johnathanj-stu
    10/05/2016 - 03:05 p.m.

    i think its cool and deep also the creatures look odd.

  • grantk-stu
    10/05/2016 - 03:08 p.m.

    Wow. Okay. This was very creepy. But also very cool. I think it's cool to find new fish and other animals. But the only bad thing is that what if they eat something like meat or other stuff.

  • zoed-stu
    10/05/2016 - 06:59 p.m.

    I think that deep-sea creatures seem mysterious because they are deep sea and nobody sees them much. They are like sharks. If sharks were deeper down, they would be much more scarier. Since they are higher up, we see them more often and we aare less scared of them.

  • kodyz-stu
    10/05/2016 - 07:15 p.m.

    Because they look weird, some of their features are weird, and we havn't discovered alot of the sea.

  • keyanm-stu
    10/05/2016 - 08:25 p.m.

    That is relly werid.

  • jacksong-stu
    10/06/2016 - 08:28 a.m.

    I have been interested in sea creatures fo a while and I think that is cool.

  • hannahl1-stu
    10/06/2016 - 09:40 a.m.

    I think this is weird but kinda cool too.I like how they told us they are finding them in Hawaii.I think its amazing how we find out about these new things and some animals or discoverys are still unknowen.

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