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Articles on this Page
- 04/30/15--06:41: _Deep-Sea Sea Cucumb...
- 05/06/15--05:14: _WHY FIVE? Mysteries...
- 05/20/15--05:38: _What is Going on wi...
- 05/28/15--22:11: _Moments from South ...
- 06/03/15--18:43: _What Have I been do...
- 06/12/15--00:07: _Lasting Impressions...
- 06/24/15--06:15: _Better know The Ast...
- 07/01/15--05:41: _Five Things you Pro...
- 07/08/15--05:00: _Benthic Comb Jellie...
- 07/15/15--05:28: _Biology we have lea...
- 01/14/15--23:27: _AMPHIPODS! Tiny Cru...
- 07/22/15--05:16: _Polychaete JAWS! (a...
- 07/29/15--06:55: _Deep-Sea Citizen Sc...
- 08/05/15--06:51: _Deep-Sea Glass Spon...
- 08/14/15--04:43: _This Week in Okeano...
- 08/21/15--20:45: _Okeanos Round up! L...
- 09/01/15--21:34: _Deep Sea Hawaii CON...
- 09/09/15--10:29: _Great Echinoderm ar...
- 09/16/15--11:53: _Goniasterid Starfis...
- 09/25/15--09:32: _Know your Deep-Sea ...
- 04/30/15--06:41: Deep-Sea Sea Cucumbers! Transparent Guts Galore!
- 05/06/15--05:14: WHY FIVE? Mysteries in Symmetry!
- Is pentameral symmetry evolutionarily adaptive?
- How is it relevant to the calcium carbonate skeleton? If at all?
- Under what conditions does pentameral symmetry evolve from an ancestral form with bilateral symmetry?
- How would this shift/expression be observed in early echinoderms? Like crinoids?
- Does the "5 part crystal stability" theory have any support?
- 05/20/15--05:38: What is Going on with cidaroid sea urchins and their WEIRD spines??
- 05/28/15--22:11: Moments from South Africa...
- 06/03/15--18:43: What Have I been doing in South Africa??
- 06/12/15--00:07: Lasting Impressions from my Visit to Cape Town, South Africa
- 06/24/15--06:15: Better know The Asterinidae: Familiar & Unfamiliar!
- 07/08/15--05:00: Benthic Comb Jellies!! New Observations?
- 01/14/15--23:27: AMPHIPODS! Tiny Crustaceans that show AMAZING colors!
- 07/22/15--05:16: Polychaete JAWS! (and proboscides) for #wormwednesday
- The deep-sea sea urchins of Hawaii (here)
- The deep-sea starfish of Hawaii (here)
- Some of my work with brisingid sea stars (here).
- 09/01/15--21:34: Deep Sea Hawaii CONTINUES!! Okeanos Explorer Leg 3 BEGINS!!
- 09/09/15--10:29: Great Echinoderm art from the Biodiversity Heritage Library!
- 09/16/15--11:53: Goniasterid Starfish LOVE to eat Octocorals!
- 09/25/15--09:32: Know your Deep-Sea Urchins! (Okeanos echinoid edition!)
3. The following ones were all "Benthodytes-like"
|thanks to Dr. Allison Gong for the pic|
2. Are all adult echinoderms purely pentameral?
You may suddenly realize "AHA! I GOT YOU! SOME echinoderms show kind of BILATERAL SYMMETRY AS ADULTS!" Don't they???
Um. Well, yes and no.
Two notable exceptions: "irregular" urchins and sea cucumbers. Both are unusual in that most are detritivores or process sediment for food. Therefore requiring movement in one direction.
Bilateral symmetry is associated with directed movement and so, its presence is often associated with organisms which show some kind of single-directed motion.
I've written about "irregular" urchins here.. basically a bunch of skeletal modifications that are part of the morphology in sea urchins that live/feed on sediment...(again, motion in a single direction)
What happens in "irregular urchins is that yet ANOTHER "symmetry" is overlain/"added" over the radial symmetry.. So, these animals go from bilateral (as larvae)
and eventually develop bilateral symmetry IN ADDITION to pentameral symmetry... This is called SECONDARY bilateral symmetry.
Sea cucumbers show bilateral symmetry (right and left sides) along their worm-like bodies. Presumably, again because they have a life mode which requires them to show directed movement in order to feed.
BUT was that ALWAYS the case????
3. Not all echinoderms were pentameral...
I've mentioned in past blogs that the echinoderms of the Paleozoic were mostly NOTHING like they
Some such as this helicoplacoid (which I wrote about here) were actually asymmetrical!
Belemnocystites wetherbyi by avancna on DeviantArt
and indeed some of the fossils which have been proposed as among of the oldest known echinoderms (e.g. Tribrachidium) show three-part symmetry...
One of the lesssons from paleontology though: symmetry in echinoderms might be part of a changing/evolving body form through time rather than some discrete, adaptive event.
4. A crystalographic/developmental explanation?
|from Nichols 1967|
The pentagon is the only regular polygon for which the number of sides equals the number of diagonals...In all echinoderms whose development has been studied, the first plates to form include those at the apex of the animal-that is, at the pole opposite to the mouth. These plates are required to produce a body with basically a circular cross-section, and in order to reduce the planes of potential weakness across them, the sutures between them must be as few and as short as possible. Only with a pentamerous arrangement are these requirements satisfied. from Nichols 1967, New Scientist 14, pg. 547 (italics mine).So, basically during development, Nichols arguments that the arrangement as seen above in "b"the theoretical development of these plates that this is essentially the strongest arrangement of these plates. Four or six plate arrangements (a or c) presents a clear breakage plane whereas the 5-plate arrangement does not.
He goes on to apply this structural explanation to various living echinoderms, but unfortunately, even Nichols admits, that this idea was experimentally untestable.
5. Some insight from Evo-Devo!
Some of the more intriguing clues into the "How did pentameral symmetry evolve?" are almost certainly going to be found from the field of "Evo-Devo", which is short for "Evolution & Development". A multidisciplinary field which integrates genetics and developmental biology. Which genes "turn on" or express certain characters??
One paper by Arenas-Mena et al. (2000) from Andy Cameron's lab at the California Institute of Technology in Development shows expression of the Hox cluster of genes in the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.
There has undoubtedly been more work on this topic, but honestly, this was about all I was going to gather in the time I had and its a VERY involved field!
So, developmental perspectives give us SOME perspective into the process and its a start, but ultimately there remain a LOT of questions.
Some Etymology:"Cidaris" the genus name for this species (and the other urchins in the group)? is Latin for a headdress or tiara for ancient Persian kings The species name "blakei" is named in honor of the USS Blake, which was the vessel on which the species was collected.
|from this echinoderm Scratchpad|
A curious bunch of animals. "About which, very little is known.."
there's a bunch of Paleozoic urchins that are worth checking out...
Sorry if I've been a bit quiet and off Twitter. What have I been up to? What have I been learning?
1. Identifying Starfish!
|image by @MarineBio_SAM|
BUT sometimes, groups need the attention that a specialized scientist, such as myself can offer: in this case the taxonomic skills to identify the many shallow and deep-water species which occur in the very diverse and wonderful waters of South Africa and nearby locales in TWO different habitats: a cold-temperate water setting on the west and south coast AND a tropical water setting on the east coast. Its unusal.
The last starfish/echinoderm expert to visit Cape Town was in the mid 1970s. Specimen collection has been proceeding at a semi-regularr ate for this entire time. And so, there's a LOT of them.
These represent valuable specimens with applications to everything from ecology to natural resource management.
I've identified HUNDREDS of specimens.. some rare. some new. More on this to follow.
2. Learning about South African Starfish!
So, along with what I've been learning from specimens, I've also been in contact with an extensive network of South Africa's marine biologists, citizen scientists, and other ocean-themed folks who are likely to know about echinoderms in the region.
I've been able to experience everything from pictures of living animals to general tips about local species. And yeah.. stuff that will hopefully find its way into a published paper...
3. Observing that temperate water South African marine habitats look astonishingly like those from central California!!
Thanks to some time at the Two Oceans aquarium and talking to colleagues, I have been reminded how stunningly similar (identical) the kelp forests of temperate South Africa can be!
Most folks think of Africa as a tropical locale but I can tell you (especially since I'm here during their winter) that Cape Town gives Monterey, California a run for its money for kelp, urchins, rain and food!
4. Giving workshops & presentations on Starfish & more!
OUTREACH! By now, its probably clear that I am not one to shy away from sharing what I know about echinoderms with everyone. Part of the plan for my visit to Cape Town was to share what I knew with students and colleagues.
So, far I've given a workshop on the classification and taxonomy of starfish as well as a talk on deep-sea biodiversity at the Two Ocean Aquarium! One more talk at the University of Cape Town next week!
Have been LOVING talking to local citizen scientists, students and the MANY interested natural history enthusiasts in the area!
So, even though I'm on another continent, there are a lot familiar names and a lot of shared history with my other friends and colleagues who have worked in South Africa-especially at the Iziko Museum!
These two specimens for example show collected specimens and work by several of my colleagues. Gary Williams is curator of cnidarians at the California Academy of Sciences. Terry Gosliner, is the curator of mollusks/nudibrancs at the same institution. Angel Valdes is another colleague who works on nudibranchs...
Its interesting how much of what I encounter here is part of this greater shared legacy in Invertebrate Zoology.
Another unexpected finding was this specimen, apparently identified by Smithsonian echinoderm worker and friend, Cynthia Ahearn who passed away many years ago. She often identified specimens for colleagues. This one was from 2002, in her distinctive writing and on a Smithsonian identification tag...
More Next Week!
collections at the Iziko Museum courtesy of my colleagues at the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).
Lots of great specimens to study and good interaction with the marine scientific community in the South African region! An extremely productive trip.
Plus, of course, first hand exposure to ecosystems and their faunas! I still marvel at the resemblance between the kelp forests & fauna here and in California!
1. One of the BEST collections of echinoderms in Africa is at the Iziko Museum!
This is always kind of a cheat of course. I just spent 3 weeks identifying a massive collection of sea stars, so OF COURSE, I'm a little biased!
But seriously, the collections here contain historical materials from famous echinoderm workers like Hubert Lyman Clark and Ailsa Clark (unrelated). They've maintained a good record of marine biodiversity throughout the region for decades from intertidal to relatively deep-depths.
The Iziko is undergoing many efforts to share its materials with the scientific community including digitzation initiatives and of course a collections database is ongoing!
This is a great place to start your studies on the Indian Ocean or to survey the unusual temperate water habitats of South Africa!
2. Citizen Science is thriving in South Africa!
Perhaps one of the best things I've discovered about the scientific community in the Cape Town and South African is the presence of a very active diving community which LOVES to share and study the marine habitats they observe!
Groups such as iSpotnature.org, SURG (the Southern Underwater Research Group), and even websites such as Eastern Cape SCUBA diving show a multitude of pictures. This also includes the many pictures off Flickr and other photobanks.. I'm sure there are probably more...
3. There are MANY wonderful ecological and natural history stories in South Africa but they are poorly studied.
Probably one of the great things I learned about studying the fauna is how many cool things are out there and widely known to the local community but were not actually published!
For example, this amazing sea star, Pteraster capensis has been reported from throughout the area to brood and generate mucus! But was this an actual observation/report? Or simply an extrapolation from the scientific literature on the North Atlantic/North Pacific species? No scientific reports on this species are available (other than those that report taxonomy).
But I finally spoke to George Branch and Charlie Griffiths at the University of Cape Town who verified that YES indeed. This has been seen!! So, it will probably make someone a great paper some day!
4. A HUGE diversity of sea stars exists in the region! (and now there is a reference collection!)
I've seen this species for example, identified as "Halityle regularis" in some field guides, but its a different color and is much flatter. Possibly a new record? Or merely a color morph of Halityle? We need to see more than a picture to be sure. I've alluded to possible undiscovered species in past posts...
5. The staff at the Iziko is AWESOME.
Members of the Asterinidae include some 150 species in over 25 genera spread out all across the world. Everywhere from the deep-sea to under rocks in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific. Most have five rays, whereas others, such as Meridiastra calcar from Australia can have up to 8 or 9..
But for once, there's quite a lot known about them! So here's five subjectively interesting facts about them!
1. They live everywhere
Asterinids occur all over the world with many in shallow water habitats, including under rocks in places as diverse as the North Atlantic. They often live under rocks, or hidden away in cryptic habitats..
There is a HUGE diversity of these tiny little guys. Some are able to reproduce asexually but others just seem to get around.. Being small and easily transported...
But honestly, one of the places you are MOST likely to encounter them is here.. in a tropical reef aquarium. These tiny ones are most likely in the genus Meridiastra or Aquilonastra.
Again, this is one of those species which is small and easily transported.. Living rock is a GREAT place for them to turn up..
This aquarium species is asexual and once one gets into your aquarium, you're most likely going to have a bunch of them after too long...
So, you can encounter shallow water asterinids almost all over the world! Australia, South Africa, South America, Antarctica, North America, etc, etc.
But as with most starfish groups, there are often weird deep-sea members... Both of these get to be pretty big sized animals.
I've mentioned these briefly before.. the flat one on the left is called Anseropoda, which is SO flat that it feels like a cloth rag when you pick it up! We know very little about it.. Sometimes, small ones are so thin that light shines through them! Its name literally means Ansero for "goose" and "poda" for foot.. So, Goosefoot starfish! These can get to be almost 1.5 feet across!
The one on the right, is called Tremaster mirabilis. Katie Gale and her colleagues found that these will feed on coral in the North Atlantic. As a species it occurs widely around the world including the North Atlantic, the South Pacific and near Antarctica.
2. Funky Feeding
Asterinids practically EMBODY the classic feeding mode of stomach eversion in sea stars! Here's a classic video I've been showing since the blog started! It shows the stomach extended out onto the glass and feeding on the algae and other good stuff. Most other asterindis feed in a similar fashion...
One of these days, somebody needs to actually make a video of this thing feeding!
|This image from SeaFriends in New Zealand|
3. Reproduction! Lots of it! Asterinids are one of the most heavily studied sea stars because of their many reproductive strategies...
Some, such as this "Asterina panceri"(Asterina gibbosa) actually BROOD their young
|From Byrne 1996, Fig. 4h|
and I've reported in the past on this other brooding species, which live inside their mother and whose babies will actually EAT one ANOTHER!
And of course when all else fails, there's always dividing yourself! Asexual or fissiparous reproduction is why those tiny aquarium stars are so numerous!
3. Commensal Worms! In the Pacific Northwest species, Patiria miniata, its been know for quite some time that there's actually a species of polychaete worm (Ophiodromus pugettensis) that actually lives on the underside!!
This is one of the better studied species of asterinids, but there's many other species of Patiria and other species such as Patiriella and Meridiastra which have a similar surface morphology and are conceivably "habitats" for other animals...
4. They are important to the Evolution of Sea Stars!
and of course, there's more I haven't summarized here.. their phylogentic history relative to their various interesting features, etc.. but that's another post!
polychaete expert Kristian Fauchald, recently of the Smithsonian's NMNH, who passed away in April of this year (2015).
is actually a big messy group that likely includes groups of worms which, at one time might actually have been classified as separate phyla !
This includes spoon worms (echiurans)
and peanut worms (sipunculans)
How many are there and where do they live?
Its thought that there are likely over 13,000 species of polychaetes which live in every ocean and at every depth (intertidal to >7000 m abyssal depths) and indeed a small proportion of them (about 168 species) even live in freshwater. The diversity of polychaetes is stunning. Those 13,000 species reside within 80 families!!
As I've shown in photo essays here (by Arthur Anker), they can be STUNNINGLY beautiful!
and some, such as these forms from Antarctica can be quite huge.
Feeding ranges from deposit feeding on sediment, filter feeding to of course, raptorial predation which has been made famous by the Indo-Pacific Bobbit Worm! (Eunice sp. )
1. Eat the Palolo Worm! Out in Guam and the Solomon Islands, there are several island cultures who are privileged to be around swimming polychaetes during their reproductive periods, where they undergo a stage/morphological transformation known as epitoky.
These worms are then promptly eaten by the locals. There are many accounts of this, such as here on National Geographic Palolo worm is considered quite the delicacy and is apparently very reminiscent of caviar and is served here on toast. A traditional presentation.
|From MrLavalava's blog!|
|Image from Wikipedia!|
All of the major invertebrate groups can usually be traced back to the very earliest moments in Earth's history when the first evidence of life appears. Polychaetes are no exception.
This pic shows what is thought to be a Cambrian polychaete from the famous Burgess Shale in Canada. It is appropriately enough called Canadia spinosa
|From the Smithsonian's Paleobiology-Cambrian Page!|
a few of these Cambrian polychaetes, including Burgessochaeta, Phragmochaeta and others.. These were thought to have paddles and interpreted as having the ability to swim. Length: 2-4 cm, so some tiny beasts.
4. Many polychaete species live in close relationships with other animals
The most photogenic polychaetes might be large predatory ones or possibly even the colorful Christmas tree worms..but there are many polychaetes with a cryptic lifestyle which includes living as a "guest" on other, larger animals.
Sometimes with strong relationships than had been surmised. I wrote about the scale worm Arctonoe vittata a few years ago. These worms live within the tube foot groove and along the underside of the leather star, Dermasterias imbricata on the Pacific North West coast.
In experiments, not only did the worms move to the sea stars when separated, but the seastars moved toward the worms!
|Photo by Paul Norwood-from iNaturalist|
Polychaete worms sometimes have highly specialized relationships. Here are a group of worms known as myzostomes, which are parasites on crinoids. and apparently have been parasitic on crinoids since the Jurassic! (Here)
5. Many polychaete names are derived from greek mythology: nereids (nymphs) and goddesses!
A comparison of the names of various nereids (sea nymphs or female water spirits) shows that there are in fact a LOT of them shared by a host of polychaete worms..
Everything from the genus for the "Bobbit Worm"Eunice sp.
to Nereis which is itself, the Greek word for the water god Nereus
Happy International Polychaete Day!
|This image by Nick Hobgood via Wikipedia|
What are benthic ctenophores (aka benthic comb jellies)? I've explained them before in one of my earlier posts (here), but simply put, they are an unusual group of comb jellies, which you might be more familiar with as purely pelagic or swimming animals, such as this "sea gooseberry"
Here's a nice pic of a species which lives on coral (image by Ria Tan and my friends over at Wild Singapore). You can see the tentacles doing the same thing..but oriented "upwards" away from the bottom.. and into the current.
In the last few years with the proliferation of video and underwater cameras, we've been seeing more and more of them. And so, learning more and MORE about them!!
Anna and Ned over at Blennywatcher.com for example were very lucky in that they were able to capture one such animal FEEDING for the first time ever!! (Here)
One of the main reasons, I got so interested in benthic ctenophores was that they live primarily on a starfish, Echinaster luzonicus, a 6-7 rayed species frequently encountered throughout the Indo-Pacific.
The ctenophore species is presumably Coeloplana astricola (no specimens examined, so hence my caution). As you can see in the picture above.. the feeding tentacles project up into the water to feed as they do in other species..
Based on this cool video made by blennywatcher.com, there appear to be different species of benthic ctenophores present on each individual host. But usually not more than one species per host...
This one is called Echinaster callosus. A weird but colorful starfish with big puffy protrusions on its body surface...
— SeaKeys (@SeaKeysSA) August 22, 2014
Benthic ctenophore (comb jelly) near Aliwal shoal KZN seen with ROV. pic.twitter.com/jBgKuTMjhL— ACEP (@ACEP_ZA) June 2, 2014
Wow! RT @SteinhartBart: Benthic ctenophore I collected @300' has its feeding tentacles out #CASfieldnotespic.twitter.com/RqZvMQ4d0e— MBARI (@MBARI_News) May 12, 2015
weird and wonderful animal: Lyrocteis- a benthic #ctenophore that I collected at 85m on recent @calacademy expedition pic.twitter.com/1MnD3KXbLV— Bart Shepherd (@SteinhartBart) May 1, 2015
|Image from the Census of Marine life|
It was in all the papers! There was certainly some good criticism of what was accomplished but many argued that even though Cameron himself did not bring back very much, he did apparently make some collections which were studied by scientists at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California, and as explained by Deep Sea News' Holly Bik even mud from that depth holds the potential for interesting data (here).
So, here we are now THREE years later and one of the first papers detailing results from Cameron's Expedition has been published!! !
The OPEN ACCESS paper was published just recently in Deep Sea Research in the May 2015 issue, written by Natalya Gallo at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a host of coauthors, including yes, director James Cameron.
Cameron famously descended in the one-man submersible, DeepSea Challenger to 10,000 meters where he took some video and grabbed some mud..
|Figure 1 from Gallo et al. 2015|
What do they report??
1. Organic input was different in the New Britain Trench
In the paper, there is what they call "allochthonous organic input" which is"science speak" for organic external or foreign materials that fall into the deep-sea which was seen more heavily near the New Britain Trench than the other regions sampled.
|Figure 4 from Gallo et al.|
In contrast, the carrion in the form of bones, etc. contributed food or nutrients to the ecosystem..
I am always keen to remind folks how important what happens at the surface impacts what happens at the deepest depths. Note here at 1000 meters food still falls FROM THE SURFACE.
One of the more interesting finds was the observation of these starfish living on bones and woody debris at 8.2 kilometers down! (8200 meters!!)
These were identified as caymanostellids, a weird group of deep-sea starfish which live on wood. No scale was available but known examples of these sea stars are relatively small.
If these are truly from 8.2 kilometer depths, they might be the deepest individuals known for this group! WOO!
3. Lower abundance & diversity in nutrient poor canyons
|Figure 7 from Gallo et al.|
This is the "on the other hand" of the study areas. The New Britain Trench (NBT) at 1000 m was nutrient rich but the Mariana Trench at the nearby Ulithi Atoll region (1100 m) were relatively poor in nutrients.
Correspondingly, the abundance AND diversity of animals observed was much less in the Mariana Trench and Ulithi Atoll regions.
The New Britain Trench site also seemed to demonstrate MORE diversity than the other two studied regions.
4. There is a large and diverse bottom/scavenging community in the New Britain Trench.
|Figure 10 from Gallo et al. 2015|
Looking at the number of amphipods in each video (per frame) they observed that there was a HUGE difference in the number observed!
Those in the New Britain Trench were MUCH more abundant!
|Image from the BBC|
One interesting thing: Absent from ALL the deep localites on this dive? NO FISH were observed. Its been argued that fish "bottom out" at about 8000 meters and are unable to occur below that.. The observations here seem to be consistent with this data.
5. Other animal observations.. Potentially new species??
In the Marianas trench at the deepest depth (10,900 meters!) they observed sea cucumbers oriented into the current, which is consistent with behavior seen in deep-sea sea cucumbers like sea pigs
The animals observed from the deepest point were only tentatively identified as members of the family Elpidiidae (Fig. 10 on the right G & H). They indicate these might possibly have been Peniagone sp. (Note Peniagone below is only for representative purposes and was NOT from Gallo et al.'s paper!)
|Peniagone islandica from EOL|
However, the account by Gallo et al. for the elpidiid sea cucumbers (their Fig. 10, G, H) are from 10,900 meters!! Which yes, makes them the DEEPEST known deuterostome animal!! (and certainly the deepest known echinoderm!!)
|Image by Arthur Anker|
Most of them are pretty tiny (about 1.0 to 20 millimeters) but some giants approach 34 centimeters (13 inches!).. such as these supergiant amphipods which live in the abyss of the deep-sea at 7,012 meters!
There's a MASSIVE amount of diversity within the group. Some are transparent, while others are colorful. Sometimes they occur in huge densities and are often thought of as the "bugs" of the sea. They often act as detritivores/scavengers as well as predators..
I thought today might be a good idea to share some of the more unusual body forms, courtesy of the highly talented photo naturalists on Flickr. Enjoy!
Epimeria loricata by Olga Zimina
Apparently 2 different color morphs of Paramphithoe hystrix by Olga Zimina
A "Jewel beetle" amphipod by Arthur Anker
Following International Polychaete Day (July 1, here), I found there was quite a bit of neat stuff worth sharing, which led to more and some more.. and so a second polychaete post in July! woo!
And of course, the giant Antarctic Eulagisca gigantea, which I briefly featured here. Honestly, I'm not sure its positively known whether this is predatory or not, but it sure does seem to be...
So, here: let's look at some other polychaete worms that seem to have the apparatus for predation!The eversible pharynx for example, seems to be used for grabbing hapless worm food! Lets take a look at a nice video of one in this green paddleworm, Phyllodoce lamelligera
By now, I'm sure EVERYONE has seen Bobbit Worm predation. But if not, and you want to learn more about Bobbit worm taxonomy, Go here
Why am I so Farkin' excited about this??
I've helped summarize the various starfish species seen on Okeanos Explorer dives in the North Atlantic (here). But the diversity in the Hawaiian region and especially in the Pacific is fair bit MORE diverse!
The folks at the Hawaiian Undersea Research Laboratory have an "ID Gallery" not just of Sea stars but of ALL the many different animals found at depth here... from crustaceans to corals and sea urchins to fish!
There's the potential to encounter one of approximately 55 species of deep-sea asteroids described in the Hawaiian region (that's not including any shallow water species).
including Apollonaster kelleyi, named for Dr. Chris Kelley who will be one of the science leads on the Okeanos team!
|Image courtesy of HURL|
|Image courtesy of HURL|
The Okeanos live stream has played a big role in part of a new and fascinating dynamic to deep-sea research! Citizen Science!
Now ANYONE around the world can watch a live streamed research cruise! (Note: Google is GREAT at helping calculate the time differences in different parts of the world).
But how does the citizen science thing work?
Screengrab software is pretty much a free feature on computers. My macintosh has it and I'm pretty sure most PCs have it. And if it doesn't already come with it, you can probably download some free software for it. There are even software apps that allow you to take short movies off the video feed.
So, basically, ANYONE can basically take a screengrab off the feed and contribute to a larger community of scientists and other interested people who are interested in deep-sea biology!!
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING NEW you will see it along WITH the scientists and the entire world!
Who knows? Maybe a screengrab that YOU take could lead to a new discovery!!
Where do you find these and how do you contribute?
There's TWITTER of course! Hashtag it with #Okeanos and Boom! there it goes! If I can, I actually make it a point to LIVE TWEET any identifications and observations I make off the live stream..
In addition to my Twitter handle: @echinoblog, others scientists and biologists who are usually watching include#Okeanos This urchin is Heterobrissus hystrix! Is aggregation FIRST TIME OBSERVED???. @email@example.com/ksQ89AdAqa— Christopher Mah (@echinoblog) April 29, 2015
@ademopoulos An ecologist at the US Geological Survey
The other interesting option is the FACEBOOK Underwater webcams Screenshot Group! So, basically if you join, this group is made up of nearly 1000 people (some scientists but many are not) that are just taking and posting screengrabs from underwater live stream video including R/V Nautilus and Okeanos Explorer.
There's usually someone on taking a grab of something almost 24 hours a day. If you missed that cute dumbo octopus?? Not to worry, in all liklihood, someone took a screen grab of it on this group!
If you see something during the Okeanos feed, you can usually ask someone on Twitter or in the Facebook group and one can usually get a response the same day.. There are innumerable taxonomists and scientists monitoring. Some will call in on the phone, which you'll be able to hear on the live stream, others may add information via the Facebook group while others such as myself may Tweet an answer.
New discoveries happen pretty regularly. New behavior. New species. Sometimes even rarely seen species! On the last Okeanos Cruise, you may remember that they observed a deep-sea starfish which had not been seen since 1878 (130 years!)
Who knows what we shall discover in Hawaii???
Some, such as this one called Regadrella has a more vase-like shape..
For size comparison, here's the stalk versus the ROV. EASILY 2m long! (6 FEET!)
This one gives you some idea of how the stalk looks on living glass sponges. These aren't the same as the one above..but general notion..
Did you know that glass sponges are actually studied as inspiration for better fiber optics?? (here)
Over the last few days, the R/V Okeanos Explorer has deployed its Remotely Operated Vehicle, the Deep Discoverer into some of the deepest waters in the Hawaiian Islands region, specifically in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! Many of the study areas have never been studied before.
The Okeanos Explorer's primary objective here is to map and document the communites which form the habitat and primary fauna of this region. And so, a majority of their time goes towards studying the many, MANY deep-sea sponges and corals which make up these habitats.
The main page for the NOAA Hawaiian Expedition can be found here.
Their LIVE feed can be found here.
I've been tweeting the LIVE stream of the Okeanos' various discoveries and last week I documented the many, MANY different types of glass sponges seen by the Okeanos Explorer.
This week I thought I would just digest some of the various discoveries made which I thought warranted a place in today's post! Although most of the screengrabs here are mine, I am ETERNALLY grateful to the Facebook Underwater screengrab group!
1. Is this the world's LARGEST KNOWN SPONGE??? (Glass sponge or otherwise??)
Here was a pic of the ROV Deep Discoverer NEXT to the sponge. it was approximately 3.5 m long X 2.5 m tall, that's about 11 feet x 8 feet LONG!
SOMETIMES, the community is a little more permanent than others. Here's a shrimp which lives inside this "glass cage" sponge. This species mates and lives inside the sponge for the rest of its life...
This story, of the "Venus flower basket" which is a pretty obvious deep-sea invertebrate "love story" is seen in the genus Euplectella. One can find more accounts of this story all over, such as here.
|the red stalked crinoid Proisocrinus ruberrimus|
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the ship has gone into port at Pearl Harbor to prepare for the third leg of the research expedition starting August 28th, surveying the main Hawaiian Islands and Geologists Seamount!! YOW!
What sorts of COOL inverts did we see in the last 7 days?? Here are the ones that caught my eye...
1. Benthic Ctenophores on Sponges Galore!
Long story short: these are similar to jellyfish, most are swimmers, but some are specialized to living on the sea bottom or other substrates.
They occur in the deep-sea but are VERY poorly known there. Here are what are undoubtedly NEW observations. Possibly even a new species of these animals living on glass sponges between 1000-2000 meters!
2. The Rare(ly encountered) starfish Pythonaster sp.!
Exciting to me was the discovery of one of the "holy grail" of deep-sea starfishes: A species in the genus Pythonaster! NOT PREVIOUSLY KNOWN FROM HAWAII! Or for that matter, this far in the Pacific!!
We have seen a different species of Pythonaster in the Atlantic on previous Okeanos cruises (here), but those were known from older records. Not only were these new, but now we had pics of them FEEDING on a sponge!! AMAZING!
Worldwide, there are less than maybe 10 specimens of this genus known!
3. A bizarre community of deep-sea tunicates, barnacle plates and...????
So, the last day the ROV from Okeanos Explorer was deployed they investigated a channel between west Nihoa and West Pac where the water current was quite strong.
They encountered sponges (of course!) but curiously also a number of other bizarre members that formed an unusual deep-sea community.
These are those brown potato shaped things in the picture above. Note how they are all clustered together in neat, almost ordered serial rows.
Basically, it came down to the act that we were seeing these giant barnacle plates ALL OVER the bottom in HUGE abundance. Here's a close up, but you can see them above in the pictures.
But WHERE WERE THEY?
4. PURPLE CRITTERS!
Some animals in the deep sea are purple.
A purple squat lobster. Not sure if they got a name to it.
5. Nice Shots of the Slime Star Hymenaster! But which one?
I have written about the oh-so lovely and unusual members of the Pterasteridae before (here). And we see them in deep-sea habitats all over the world.
But in the Indo-Pacific there is a HUGE expanse with MANY, many more species to be considered!
Here is a species observed by Okeanos Explorer just a few days ago! The hole, which opens and closes is called an osculum.
@shornik ) this VIDEO!
So, what is this purple one???
Many other cool critters seen-but I leave you with an assortment of weird glass sponges....
to begin LEG THREE of its Hawaiian Islands Expedition! Exploring Deep-Sea Coral Communities! (here)
2. Was that a NEW STARFISH?
So, this happened only Monday.. The ROV was exploring McCall Seamount at around 2700 meters and came upon this beast..
So, the amazing thing about this is, I didn't recognize it! If you wanted to learn what it was like to "discover" new species along with the scientists?? THIS IS WHAT THAT IS LIKE.
Based on a tip by ophiuroid expert Sabine Stohr, this ophiacanthid brittle star is likely Ophioplinthaca!
I described only last year (here) What's interesting about it? the disk is HUGELY swollen with water! A big difference from seeing them preserved in a bucket!!!
What discoveries will next week's expeditions bring???
and the living ones..
Note #17 above? Thats supposed to be Hymenaster rex, a North Atlantic slime star. Here's an ACTUAL picture of one that is doesn't QUITE meet with the artist's concept...
This big guy is Hippasteria muscipula! A species I just described last year! (here) It would seem to occur over a pretty wide depth range..from several hundreds to several THOUSANDS of meters!
They seem to be primarily predators on bamboo "corals" which are octocorals in the family Isididae.
Another closely related Hippasteria-like sea star which we've seen in the Hawaii region is the genus Evoplosoma.
We've seen plenty of examples of Evoplosoma feeding in the Atlantic as well as parts of the Pacific.
BUT that's not all! We've encountered multiple goniasterid species apparently feeding on coral!
— Carina M. Gsottbauer (@CarinaDSLR) September 22, 2015
Caenopedina pulchella This species shows these very thick spines which are brightly colored green and purple!
— Carina M. Gsottbauer (@CarinaDSLR) September 22, 2015
Echinothuriids are a frequently encountered group in the deep-sea. We will likely encounter more of them..
Cidaroids are unusual for urchins in that they lack skin on their spines, which results in an overabundance of "fouling" animals which can settle and grow on them. I've briefly talked about the ecological importance of this here.
We've also seen cidaroids with a CRAZY range of spine shapes and morphologies, such as what I summarized here.
Cidaroids are not just predators on corals as shown below, but are also likely predators on stalked and other crinoids as I've posted about previously..
A nice diversity of cidaroid urchins in the deep-sea Hawaiian Islands.. More at the HURL gallery here. but sadly we've really only seen a few at the deep depths Okeanos has been exploring..
Histocidaris variabilis.. note the barnacles growing on the spines...
Possibly Stylocidaris calacantha. This one was observed high up in the branches of this bamboo coral, likely feeding on the polyps..