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 is about a mile off the south shore of Hawaii Island. It 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. 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. 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 is the senior director of the Hawaii program at Conservation International. He 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. 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 and 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, 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. 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 (17)
  • bryanl-ver
    10/07/2016 - 03:30 p.m.

    I think that it is interesting that it's going to take up to 1 year or more so they can draw their conclusion about the sea creatures

  • camrond-lew
    10/11/2016 - 03:24 p.m.

    The ocean is such an unexplored place, that it seems like another planet. It amazes me that we can send people thousands of miles away to a planetary satellite called the moon, but we cannot send a human a few miles below the ocean's surface.

  • cameronw2-lew
    10/11/2016 - 03:28 p.m.

    Sea creatures are very interesting to learn about like how they survive in their habitats and where they are in the sea. It's very important for people to learn more about sea creatures from scientists conclusions.

  • kaitlynnw-lew
    10/11/2016 - 03:32 p.m.

    It´s kind of strange if you think about it, that we have less knowledge of the ocean than the moon because, the ocean is here on Earth so we can get to it easy but the moon is out in space yet we still know less about the ocean.

  • zakkb-sto
    10/13/2016 - 11:44 a.m.

    I think these creatures seem mysterious because they live in such an unknown place and are probably living among other creatures we don't even know about yet.

  • kalebk1-sto
    10/13/2016 - 11:47 a.m.

    They seem mysterious because we have never seen them before.

  • hannahl1-sto
    10/13/2016 - 03:02 p.m.

    i think they seem mysterious because they are in the deep sea where its dark and people make them seem mean.

  • mckenziec-sto
    10/13/2016 - 03:06 p.m.

    The article was very interesting and now I am more interested on what scientist have found in the depths of the ocean.

  • jamesc-sto
    10/13/2016 - 03:11 p.m.

    they mostly look like blobs or aliens

  • pjack-dav
    10/16/2016 - 09:41 a.m.

    In response to Why do deep sea creatures seem mysterious? I agree that they are very hard to find and mysterious. One reason is man kind knows only about 5% of the oceans which is bad because we know more about space that we do of our own planet. Another reason is it says in the article that there is more diversity in some places, some have more marine life that others. A third reason is the article states that there is a lot of food and shelter in the Hawaiian Islands which brings up a lot of marine animals that want to feed on these nutrients. Therefore we can catch and study these animals to learn more about their mysteriousness. Even though it is extremely hard and dangerous to find these animals it will pay off when we study them and learn more about our planet.

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