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Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center - Florida

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Click below to go to the Cruise Logs - (photo credit: Lophelia Coral - Open-File Report 2008-1148 & OCS Study MMS 2008-015)

Deep-sea Cruises 2010 - Cruise 1

Cruise Log: 9/29/2010    

New information and the value of sampling over multiple years-plus new information on my favorite crabs

Martha Nizinski

Galatheid crabs are often seen perched on top of Lophelia reefs. Here they were observed nestled within burrows, hidden from view. - click to enlarge
Despite a temporary set back with loss of the manipulator arm on the ROV, sampling continues to go well. We have had great success collecting individuals of my favorite group of organisms, the galatheid crabs. These crabs, also known as squat lobsters, are extremely diverse and are frequently found in deep-sea ecosystems. In fact, species in the genus Munidopsis are common in extreme environments such as seeps and hydrothermal vents and are frequently associated with deep-sea coral habitats. The majority of our collections this year have been members of the genera Munidopsis and Munida. We have collected a few species of Munidopsis that we have not seen previously at these sites. Additionally, this is the first year we have collected multiple individuals of several species of Munida. One of the reasons for this is that we have concentrated some of our efforts in the soft sediments, the preferred habitat for Munida, adjacent to the coral habitat this year. The information we collect will allow us to determine if the assemblages of organisms that are associated with corals are different from those animals found on soft sediments.

We have visited the Vioska Knoll sites each year of this project, and each year we observe something new or collect a species we have not seen previously. We continue to learn more about the diversity of this area with each dive thus reinforcing the fact that one dive or one visit at a site is never enough. These are complex systems with many microhabitats that require multiple methods of sampling to uncover the diversity hidden within the coral matrix, found next to the coral mound or on the soft sediments adjacent to the coral habitats. Each trip we try to investigate new sections of the coral habitat and make observations on what species are associated with the corals, how individuals are distributed on the coral mound, and whether there are new combinations of species associated with these environments.

We have arrived at the west Florida Slope and have completed our first day of sampling. This looks to be a very interesting area; quite different from the Vioska Knoll sites and more similar to sites we have sampled in the Atlantic in terms of coral-reef species composition. We are watching the weather carefully. Hopefully the tropical weather will stay far enough away that we can continue sampling this amazing site.

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