Maldives by Gzzz under Creative Commons License

A previously undescribed oasis of life, 500 meters below the waves of the Indian Ocean, has been discovered by the Nekton Maldives Mission.  Video evidence from a submersible, biological samples and extensive sonar mapping indicate that predators in this zone feed on small organisms known as micro-nekton.  What are those?  Well, they are small marine organisms that don’t need the current to swim and typically migrate from the deep waters to the surface at night and back down when the sun comes up. What researchers have found though, is that these micro-nekton become trapped against the underwater landscape in this area in the Maldives.

Maldivian atolls are made up of volcanic underwater strata and fossilized carbonate reefs which form steep vertical cliffs and shelving terraces.  It seems to be that these are the reason why the micro-nekton are prevented from diving any deeper, becoming trapped and then becoming easy pickings for predators.

So why is this discovery special?

Until this mission, very little was known about the life below 30 meters in the Maldives. ‘This has all the hallmarks of a distinct new ecosystem’, explained Professor Alex Rogers, from the University of Oxford. This trapping effect has already been associated with subsea mountains, but it has thus far not been linked to the different geomorphology and biological parameters of oceanic islands. This discovery could have important implications for other oceanic islands and the research will inform Maldivian government conservation and management policies, supporting their conservation commitments.

Who is behind this research?

The Nekton Maldives Mission is a partnership between the Government of Maldives, Nekton (a not-for-profit research institute based in Oxford), the University of Oxford, a number of Maldivian organizations and an international alliance. The purpose is to conduct the first systematic survey of ocean life in the Maldives, from the surface to 1000 meters deep.

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Find out more at: https://nektonmission.org/missions/maldives

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