Less than two months after our successful coastal expedition in the Baltic ended, we’ve sent out another team on board the Ranger, our research catamaran, to study a (very) little known escarpment (steep slope, rocky wall) in the Spanish Mediterranean just south of Cabrera National Park.
Our friends in Europe have wrapped up the Oceana Ranger's 2012 expedition, capturing more than 100 hours of footage documenting the incredible variety of life, both familiar and bizarre, living on underwater mountains known as seamounts off the coast of Spain and Portugal. What they documented, as seen in these pictures taken at the Seco de los Olivos or Chella Bank seamount a mere 10 miles off the coast of El Ejido, Spain, seems fitting in the run-up to Halloween. Above, the ghoulish specter of a rough shark approaches the Ranger's underwater robot, or ROV. Below, a posse of some 20 conger eels peek out from the sheer face of a seamount cliff.
Oceana's work on the seamount has uncovered octopus, monkfish, Norway lobster, coral communities and even a carnivorous sponge. As Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director of Oceana in Europe says, this is truly unique habitat and one that can be destroyed in an instant by such human activities as bottom trawling:
“The images obtained . . . have confirmed that fact that Seco de los Olivos is one of the marine areas with the highest environmental interest in Spain. However, as this is a small seamount, relatively close to the shore, it is in a state of constant deterioration from recreational and commercial fishing, and so management of the area is urgently needed if we want to preserve its abundant natural wealth”.
Using this footage, in 2013 Oceana will be joining a coordinated effort to try to put conservation measures in place for these biodiversity hotspots. Learn more about the Oceana Ranger here.
All pictures © Oceana
The Oceana Ranger has now been at sea for several weeks, and as usual, the crew has been sending us some incredible photos. Starting this week, I’ll be posting a photo of the week from the journey.
This week’s photo of a beautiful octopus comes from a dive the team did off Portugal’s beautiful Algarve region, in Pedra de Martinhal. As the photographer noted, this curious octopus wasn’t scared off by the camera, perhaps because it was mesmerized by its reflection in the glass.
Stay tuned for more great photos in the coming weeks, and check out the Ranger set on Flickr.
Exciting news from across the pond: Oceana scientists, along with scientists from German and Italian universities, have identified carnivorous sponges in the deep waters of the Mediterranean in Spain and Italy.
Although the species, Asbestopluma hypogea, was first discovered in the 1990s, very little was known about it until recently. Oceana’s research vessel, Ranger, made crucial discoveries about the sponge’s habitat using an underwater robot (ROV) during its 2007 and 2010 expeditions.
Asbestopluma hypogea is no ordinary sea sponge. Most sea sponges obtain nutrients by filtering tiny food particles out of the surrounding water as it flows past the sponge – but not Asbestopluma hypogea. This tiny carnivorous sea sponge has adapted to life in areas where food is scarce. They capture small crustaceans using filaments covered with hook-like spicules, taking more than 10 days to finish each meal. And that’s despite having no digestive tract, limited mobility and being very tiny (between 1 and 1.5 centimeters). How cool is that?