The Luʻuaeaahikiikapapakū expedition revealed an abundance of diversity in these never-before-surveyed seamounts of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument- especially when it comes to corals. This highlight video is only a fraction of the gorgeous community of filter feeders we found on the seafloor. These coral colonies, made up of thousands of animals, were so dense and well-grown that finding a place to carefully set down ROV Hercules was a difficult task for our skilled pilots. Catch glimpses of bright purple Victorgorgia cnidarians, Hippasteria sea stars munching on coral, meter-long crinoids and so much more in this compilation video.
In only the last five years, ten new coral species have already been scientifically described from the exploration of the region’s deeper seamounts, and new, targeted collections from E/V Nautilus’s expeditions hope to improve our understanding of the monument’s biodiversity. High-density coral communities are diverse and abundant, but not widespread and form on magnesium crust substrate at depths that may be targeted in nearby international waters by the newly emerging deep-sea mining industry. Findings from this expedition will contribute data to better understand these amazing communities and increase our knowledge of how and where they form.