The New York Times has an excellent article today discussing state of science and research about deepwater corals in the Gulf of Mexico.
As we’ve blogged, the site of the BP oil disaster has been explored and mapped to some degree by NOAA – some of it funded by the Minerals Management Service.
During last fall’s deepwater expedition in the area, researchers were energized by the forests of deepwater Lophelia they found – it’s a type of coral that can be a vital foundation species to the health of the oceans. But much remains (remained?) to be discovered at depth there.
“We know 1 percent of what’s out there in deep waters — perhaps 1 percent,” said Dr. Billy Causey of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries.
Lophelia pertusa, black coral (right), anemones, and squat lobster, Gulf of Mexico.
Image courtesy of Ian MacDonald, Lophelia II 2009 expedition.
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon’s well is spewing 5,000 gallons of oil a day into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Canyon. Engineers try to build a dome over the gusher, while others work on digging a “relief” well nearby in a bid to stop the flow.
Today we revisit some of the sealife that NOAA and the US Minerals Management Service have documented so far in the their four-year series of deep sea explorations in the Gulf.
Above, an example of the Mississippi Canyon 751 site (near Deepwater Horizon well) where coral and cold seep habitats intersect. On the left is the gorgonian coral Callogorgia americana. On the right is the seep tubeworm. From Lophelia II expedition, 2009.
Lophelia pertusa coral from the Mississippi Canyon 751 site at approximately 450 m depth. From Lophelia II expedition, 2009.
Tubeworms living on the same piece of carbonate rock as large colonies of the gorgonian Callogorgia Americana americana. Note the brittle stars and a galatheid crab crawling on the gorgonians. Photo by Derk Bergquist.
Iceworms (Hesiocaeca methanicola) infest a solid piece of orange methane ice at 540 m depth in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Ian MacDonald. Both above photos from Expedition to the Deep Slope, 2006.
Photos courtesy NOAA Office of Ocean Research and Exploration