I’ll be living half in the daylight, and half at night for the remainder of the expedition.
Last night would rank as the highlight of the trip so far. I was able to help out with the IKMT (midlevel trawl). This net is sent down to particular desired depths to collect fish and any other organisms living at that level of the ocean. Several researchers are looking at the daily migrations that take place. Some have said that they represent some of the greatest migrations that occur anywhere on the planet. Many species of fish and invertebrates make this daily journey, coming up from the deep during the night hours to feed. There destination is the edge of the layer in the ocean that contains light harvesting plankton, and other zooplankton that feed upon those primary producers. At dawn, the migration reverses and they retreat back to the depths to await the night again. Myctophid fish species, although not as photogenic or glamorous as their cousins living in the shallow coral ecosystems, are an amazing species. They, as many of the creatures of the deep, use bioluminescence to attack mates, confuse predators, or grab a meal. As we looked through the products of the nets samples we found a wide array of vertebratesa and invertebrates. Some of the samples included species of jellyfish, krill, octopus, squid, shrimp, and diverse species of fish. Of course, many more species of planktonic creatures that are beyond my knowledge. The samples looked like a thick soup of life. It’s amazing to look at these species and the adaptations that have evolved to help these organisms live like they do. Large eyes to collect any trace of light. Gaping mouths to make sure the prey is secured, and reduced organs of minimal importance. As the samples came in Ben Neal, Diana Tucker and myself spend time photographing the samples for virtual collections which we hope to share with everyone. Our attempt is to catalog what we find.
In addition today I spent time listening to researcher Dr. Greg Rouse, who is responsible for discovering new species within the temporary ecosystems that blossom when a whale dies and falls to the floor of the ocean, called whalefalls. His specialty in within the microscopic organisms that live in the deep. He is responsible for discovery and identification of many creatures that help form the base of food/energy pathways in the oceans. The sea floor, being one of the largest and least studied ecosystems on the planet holds so much unknown or undiscovered that he feels it will help us explain what is happening or has happened to life all over the planet. The world he studies is such a fascinating place to step into. One finds that this place, when you look close enough, matters. It may have more of an effect on the big picture than the organisms most scientists choose to study. The worms, bacteria and other glamor less organisms that live hundreds to thousands of meters below the surface. I’ve enjoyed walking into their dark, cold, and mysterious world for a while. It shows how much we still don’t understand about our world. We are waiting, as we adjust our focus into this fine world.