Fish news
Fish news
 
Three coral reefs discovered off the coast of Florida

A group of scientists from the Catalyst One expedition has discovered three previously unknown coral reefs 35 miles of the coast of Florida. The coral reefs consist mainly of Lophelia coral and are located at a depth of 450 metres (1475 feet).

Lophelia pertusa is a cold-water coral famous for its lack of zooxanthellae. The well known coral reefs found in warm, shallow waters – such as the Great Barrier Reef – consist of reef building corals that utilize energy from the sun by forming symbiotic relationship with photosynthesising algae. Lophelia pertusa on the other hand lives at great depths where there isn’t enough sunlight to sustain photosynthesising creatures, and survives by feeding on plankton.

The deep-sea reef habitat formed by Lophelia pertusa is important for a long row of deep water species, such as lanternfish, hatchetfish, conger eels and various molluscs, amphipods, and brittle stars. The reefs that we see today are extremely old, since Lophelia reefs typically grow no more than 1 mm per year. Unfortunately, these deep reefs are today being harmed by trawling and oil extraction.

The Catalyst One expedition will submit its newly acquired information to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council to provide further data for the proposed Deep Coral Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC).

The Catalyst One expedition is a collaboration between the Waitt Institute for Discovery, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It combines the scientific expertise of Harbor Branch’s senior research professor, John Reed, with Woods Hole’s high-tech operations skills and Waitt Institute’s modern autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

In order to reach these great depths and efficiently explore substantial areas, the expedition used REMUS 6000 AUV vehicles capable of carrying two kinds of sonar and a camera. With this type of equipment, each mission can last for up to 18 hours and provides the researchers with mosaic pictures of the bottom, pictures that can then be pieced together to form a detailed, high-definition map.

Rarely do scientific expeditions produce solid results this quickly,” says Dr Shirley Pomponi, executive director of Harbor Branch. “This is a big win for the resource managers tasked with protecting these reefs and proof that cutting edge technology combined with the seamless teamwork of the three organisations involved in Catalyst One can accelerate the pace of discovery.”

You can find more information about the Catalyst program at the Waitt Institute for Discovery.

http://waittinstitute.org/wid/catalyst/

http://waittinstitute.org/wid/news/catalyst1.html

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