Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Event Name/Location

11th International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium, Southampton, United Kingdom, July 9-14, 2006

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The bathypelagic zone, Earth’s largest living space, is essentially boundless in three dimensions for most of its extent, structured only by fluid features (e.g., salinity, temperature) of the seawater itself. However, near certain topographic features this zone intersects the seafloor. The mid-ocean ridge system is by far the largest of these features. Unlike the ecosystems of the continental margins, the mid-ocean ridge systems do not receive terrigenous nutrient inputs. Thus, the deep-water fauna associated with mid-ocean ridges ultimately depend on the generally limited local surface production. Despite this limited surface production, there is evidence that near-ridge demersal fish biomass is increased above the mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). Two processes by which organic matter can be transferred to the benthic boundary layer include: 1) sinking of aggregates and the carcasses of larger animals, and 2) vertical migration of living animals. To understand the dynamics of the latter process, deep-pelagic and demersal fishes were studied during the 2004 G.O. Sars Expedition, a field campaign of MAR-ECO. MAR-ECO, a Census of Marine Life project, is an international study of the animals inhabiting the northern Mid-Atlantic. Utilizing multiple technologies the water column (to 3500 m) and benthic realms were sampled. Taxonomic analysis to date has revealed over 300 fish species, with ongoing analysis expected to reveal more species, some new to science. Pelagic sampling collected 207 species, with typical orders dominating. Bottom trawling collected ca. 175 species, with typical demersal families, but also pelagic families occurring in numbers higher than would be expected by contamination alone. Discrete, near-bottom pelagic trawls confirmed this observation. In all, 84 species were caught in both pelagic and bottom trawls, with some species showing enhanced abundances in the near-bottom boundary layer, suggesting that overlap of deep-pelagic and demersal faunas is likely a key process regulating mid-ocean ridge community structure.