The deep sea biome is said to be less understood and less explored than the Moon. Nearly any serious expedition into deep sea ecosystems reveals new species, or even entirely new habitats. Often, these notoriously slow-growing biological communities are thought to be extraordinary simply on the basis of their size and structural complexity. Such was the case with the discovery of a large, coldwater coral reef off of the Irish coast.
While scanning the seafloor along the route of the 19th century transatlantic cable line, researchers for the Quantifying EnviRonmental Controls on cold-water coral reef growth (QuERCi) survey aboard the MV Celtic Explorer happened upon a previously unknown reef in the Porcupine Bank Canyon area. The reef, being a series of 20- to 30-meter carbonate mounds (some over 100 meters tall), is situated at a depth of about one kilometer. The features are characterized by their massive submerged cliff faces.
Biologists in the team were immediately taken aback by the abundance of life in the community, which is devoid of light and, therefore, photosynthetic productivity. The area is particularly rich in black corals, but also is a home to spectacular crinoids, sea anemones, sponges and sea pens. Expedition member Graham Ryan likens the mysterious habitat to “oases of life in the deep ocean supporting vibrant ecosystems.”
To learn more about this discovery and the work of QuERCi, please visit: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/irish-scientists-discover-new-coral-habitat-off-kerry-coast-1.2260381.