Tuesday, September 9, 2014

(More than!) Five Cool Things We Could See if the Okeanos Went Back to Indonesia

So, over the weekend, the livestream of Okeanos Explorer briefly mentioned and entertained the idea that they might head back to Indonesia for a revisitation of their inaugural expedition from 2010! (The INDEX-SATAL Mission). (I think someone mentioned the ambassador was on ship?)

That expedition was, of course, 4 years ago and the program had just begun. Updates were not as forthcoming. But an opportunity to RETURN to Indonesia? With the benefit of hindsight, experience and further preparation?? That would be awesome!

That area is known as home to probably one of the MOST diverse marine faunas of anywhere in the world.  And although there's a lot known from shallow and deep habitats, the deep sea areas (below 200 m) in the Indonesian area will likely make all the stuff R/V Okeanos Explorer and E/V Nautilus have been observing in the Atlantic look like a goldfish bowl by comparison! 

A LOT of the species in this area are likely undescribed. A veritable gold mine of biodiversity to be studied! Some of these taxa have no Atlantic members. (It would be even better if these were enhanced by collections of course!)

Here's some highlights that I would love to see again!  

1. The Sea Cucumbers
I don't think I've seen ALL the pics but the ones I have were brilliant. This red elasiopod would be something I think everyone should see again... 
Okeanos from expl2168

The oddball swimming sea cucumber with the big lobe: the appropriately named Psychropotes
From Okeanos expl5494
and this gorgeous swimming Enypniastes? Or something similar to it.. But wow! Transparent body! You can literally SEE the sediment filled intestine THROUGH the body wall!
from Okeanos expl5475
2. The Hydrothermal Vents
When people talk about hydrothermal vents, there's 2 or 3 places that register as the most iconic spots.. the Mid-Atlantic and the East Pacific Rise.  There's others but one vent site that no one really talks about much?  The ones surveyed by Okeanos in Indonesia! 

These are the hydrothermal vents found on the undersea volcano Kawio Barat (West Kawio) 
from Okeanos expl2184
Amazingly gorgeous spires created by hydrothermal activity. 0.5 to 1 meter tall active and inactive spires on the summit of the Kawio Barat submarine volcano. Spires observed at 1849 meters depth. 
From Okeanos expl2188
Further venting through some of these chimneys gives us these amazing structures covered by barnacles! 
from Okeanos expl 2195
What's that? you want to see those barnacles more close up? here ya' go...
fr. Okeanos expl 2196

3. The Insane Stalked Crinoid Diversity
One of the very interesting animals noted in the expedition pictures notes was the incredible diversity of stalked crinoids which were observed.. I've only shown two of them below..but the gallery shows many different types of stalked crinoids.. to say nothing of the feather stars (aka unstalked crinoids)

This red one, as identified by Dr. Marc Eleaume in Paris is likely Proisocrinus ruberrimus 
From Okeanos expl5403
 And an likely unidentified member of the Hyocrinidae...                                     

4. Bizarre and wonderous Deep Sea Sponges (Hexactinellid or Glass Sponges? I think)
A wonderous cladorhizid carnivorous sponge from about 1000 m! 
from Okeanos expl5560
A bizarre sponge with unusual body morphology
from Okeanos expl 5599
5. And the underappreciated Slit Shell Snails (Pleurotamariidae)! 
I'm honestly not sure how many people recognized a majority of the animals observed on the 2010 dive but some of the shots from the NOAA Photo Library showed some awesome images of that most treasured of marine snails: The Slit Shelled Snail (family Pleurotamariidae).       

These snails have always held a certain appeal to shell collectors. The shells are known from the fossil record and have a distinct slotted opening near the shell's opening. They are one of the largest marine snails observed in deep-sea settings..
from Okeanos expl5650
 The images place the slit-shell moving into this gorgeous field of corals..                                  
From Okeanos expl 5648
Some of these snails are predators on echinoderms, such as sea stars and possibly serpent stars (ophiuroids). So, conceivably this one is about to feed...
From Okeanos expl5646
PLUS! those Hermit Crabs with shells replaced by sea 
fr. Okeanos 5671
fr. Okeanos 5672
ONE More GREAT thing?? In situ observations of WOOD FALL COMMUNITIES!  These are some of the weirdest, rarest of deep-sea habitats as written by Craig McClain at Deep-sea news as he's documented here and here.  What are they? Deep-sea communities based entirely on wood from the surface that have fallen to the deeps!!

Some of these species are known ONLY from wood substrates!

But how often do you get to see an established wood fall community??  Here's what looks like those wood-eating urchins I wrote about a few years ago...
Okeanos expl 5968
and here's a close up of some more urchins and polychaetes
from Okeanos expl 5972

and yeah, there was a LOT more...

So, Okeanos Decision Committee?? LET'S GO BACK TO INDONESIA!!! 


Michael Kyte said...

The photos of the Pleurotamariidae are extremely interesting. Wouldn't you love to be a diver and be able to examine the assemblage shown in the photos up close and personal!? By-the-way, any idea of what are the ophiuroids on the coral next to the snail?

ChrisM said...

If they go back, there won't be a need to wish! The video (and hopefully some sampling) would be able to survey that field up close and personal.

Deep-sea Indonesian euryalids are a mystery to all but a half dozen people in the world. Trust me, there's no shortage of pictures but no specimens that go along with the pics...

But glad to hear from you!