Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Starfish from Deep-Sea Hawaii- What Lives Below A Tropical Paradise!

So, this week...a special TREAT! A recent visit by a colleague from the Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa has resulted in my being able to show all of my loyal Echinoblog fans some EXCLUSIVE images of the deep-sea fauna in the Hawaiian Islands!!

Hawai'i has some AWESOME shallow-water echinoderms. I've blogged about many of these species.

This includes such cool critters as Colobocentrotus-the shingle urchin and some uncommon/rarely seen starfish, such as Coscinasterias, Valvaster, and Astropecten. As well as some neat artistic renditions...

Most people don't realize that HURL one of the most active deep-sea laboratories in the United States with ongoing research in marine biology, oceanography, geology, and even anthropology (discovering World War II submarines and shipwrecks for instance!)

They operate not one but TWO manned submersibles in American waters-the Pisces IV and the Pisces V. Plus a remotely operated vehicle.

Both subs are deployed off the mother ship, the Ka‘imikai-o-Kanaloa (often abbreviated KoK) which is Hawaiian for "Heavenly Searcher of the Sea" Here is the Pisces V being deployed from the aft deck of the KoK.

...and thanks to Craig Young, I've actually been down in the Pisces V (in 2001) and found it to be one of the coolest things I've ever done!

I've had a fairly LONG association with not only the Hawaiian Undersea Research Lab, but also the Invertebrate Zoology department at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I helped identify and sort the echinoderms in the collection.

I was ultimately able to learn and help to identify the deep-sea starfish/sea star fauna in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

Its interesting that there's actually a much HIGHER diversity of deep-sea starfish around Hawai'i then shallow-water. But sadly, much of it is very poorly known. We continue to discover new things about the invertebrate fauna around the Hawaiian Islands on a regular basis!

Thanks to HURL..I am now able to share the diversity of (at least some of) this fauna with you!

What follows are images taken by the Hawaiian Undersea Research Laboratory of the animals in their habitat. (sorry for the bars at the top-these designate the species, dive and locality...)

Bear in mind...there are NO common names. Why? Because almost NO one other then scientists and possibly the occasional deep-sea fisherman, who gets one caught in a net gets to see these!

1. Anseropoda insignis. A weird deep-sea species found throughout the Indo-Pacific, but ONLY in deep-water (This one from 200-300 m or so..) The body is FLATTENED and almost PAPER-THIN. And are easily damaged when collected by trawl nets...so you almost never see them alive like this....

These are decent sized, about 8 to 10 inches across.

2. Tremaster mirabilis.
I blogged about this as a species, "about which, little is known.."

but here..we see it sitting practically FLUSH on the sea bottom.. About 4-6 inches in diameter.

3. Astropecten polyacanthus.
I just thought it would be interesting to show that even shallow-water species can get quite deep. This one was from less then 100 m (I'll have to check exactly how deep). Here is a post I did about one found in shallow-water.

4. Pentaceraster cumingi. At one time, this species was more commonly encountered at SCUBA depth, but I have anecdotally heard that because of its large size lack of abundance, and slow movement, this species has been rendered "locally extinct" in some places because people take them. But still occur in fairly deep-water (50-130 m)...

These are big..almost a foot and a half across..as are most oreasterids.

5. Asterodiscides tuberculosus.
This is a species that you can see at the deeper end of a SCUBA dive. There are two toenail-like plates at the end of each arm. We know almost nothing about it.

Decent sized animals..about 6 to 8 inches across.

4. Ctenophoraster hawaiiensis.
This species was described by Walter K. Fisher in 1906. We know nothing about it. This species is about 7 to 9 inches across.

Tamaria triseriata. Another species that is really pretty..but whose biology is unknown.
About 5 to 6 inches across.

Calliderma spectabilis (which is a synonym of Calliderma emma).
These are amazing to see on video. They get BIG..and are almost a foot and a half across (armtip to armtip)! Probably because of their size, these are collected quite frequently.

It is interesting to note that the genus Calliderma also occurs in the Cretaceous of Europe, which suggests that this may be one of those critters that has been around and unchanged for quite a long time...

7. Calliaster pedicellaris.
This is a pretty handsome animal. Sharp, cone-shaped spines cover the edge and the surface. We know pretty much nothing about it other then that.

Good sized about 6-7 inches across.

Coronaster eclipes.
Another BEAST of a starfish! These can be VERY big..almost a foot and a half across. Possibly a predator? Described by Walter K. Fisher in 1925 and until the submersibles began operation...rarely encountered since then...

9. Brisinga panopla
What's a bunch of deep-sea pictures without a brisingid or three?
There are actually about four species of brisingid that are known in and around the Hawaiian Islands..

What are brisingids? Short answer: starfish/sea stars that are deep-sea filter feeder/predators. Go here to read more! plus, they have Cool names. (go see!)

These can get to be over a foot in diameter.
So, this is NOT all of the species...just the ones I thought were immediately interesting. There's a LOT more. How many more?? Go check out this checklist for the starfish I helped develop..
and here's the master list for all Hawaiian Invertebrates..

Hopefully...I'll get to show some other species at some point...

Interested in more Hawaiian Invertebrates??

Here's a GREAT book-"In Deeper Waters" by two of the primary scientists at HURL available at Amazon..
and here is John Hoover's excellent field guide to shallow water (with some overlapping into the deep-sea) invertebrates!


Anonymous said...



Chris Grinter said...

Hey former invert bio TA! Really enjoying your blog, hope all is well.

ChrisM said...

and I see you have a blog of your own! Great to hear from you again!

tentaculus said...

This is wonderful. I have seen all of the species from Chave and Malahoff's book, yet it was incredible to see them consistently recorded from this expedition as well.

Hi! I'm Janola. said...

Gee, these were beautiful! That paper-thin starfish is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

jphoover said...

Hi Chris - were there any deepwater photos of Sclerasterias euplecta? - John Hoover