Deep Sea Corals
Deep Sea Associates in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument
The Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world and encompasses three areas of interest for this cruise: Howland and Baker Islands and Johnston Atoll. As we travel from American Samoa to Hawai’i, the view out from the E/V Nautilus is a whole of blue ocean. Underneath the sea, however, lie seamounts–underwater mountains brimming with biodiversity. Seamounts tend to be nutrient-rich areas due to the currents which flow over them. They offer a rich habitat for filter-feeding organisms, like corals and sponges that can find food despite the extreme deep-sea environment where they live. Coral, sponges, and other organisms here also serve as habitat for other opportunistic and filter feeders, hungry to find food flowing through the currents. These cohabiters, or “associates” add to the diversity of species living in these protected areas and have found some pretty unique areas to call home.
Contributed by Science Communication Fellows Yashira Cruz Rodriguez, Kelly Ferron and Brandon Rodriguez