Exploring the Coral Canyons on Boston’s Doorstep
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is a marine national monument located approximately 130 miles from Boston. While largely unexplored, it is thought to have very rare, diverse, and ecologically sensitive ecosystems supporting abundant marine life, including deep sea corals and sponges, tuna, sea turtles, seabirds, deep sea fishes and sharks, and myriad marine mammals. These canyon environments are so rare that they can be said to resemble remote islands, with the capacity for tremendous biodiversity and evolutionary adaptations that teach us about how the planet works.
On the second anniversary of the Canyons’ designation as a Marine National Monument, OceanX’s research vessel the Alucia voyaged with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to conduct deep-sea submersible dives to explore and characterize recently protected unique, biodiverse, and vulnerable deep-sea canyon habitats which have rarely, if ever, been explored by manned submersibles.
Scientists found surprising patterns of species diversity, including red and white bubblegum corals, Lophelia, and primnoid corals. Within the Lydonia canyon, the coral species observed at depth (900 meters) were unexpectedly almost completely different (one or two coral species shared) from species observed in shallower waters (500 m). The team also observed for the first time Lophelia hard coral (900m, on the deeper distribution of this species) in Lydonia canyon; this coral has been in the news recently for forming a massive (~80 mile long) reef off of South Carolina. Additionally, the team believes they may have collected a new species of white bubblegum coral in Lydonia Canyon at 623 meters.
|LOCATION:||Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument|
|SCIENCE PARTNER:||Bloomberg Philanthropies, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, & National Geographic|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 2019|