Deep, Open Ocean Is Vastly Under-Explored, Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2010) — New research from the University of Sheffield has discovered that the deep open ocean, by far the largest habitat for life on Earth, is currently the most under-explored area of the sea, and the one we know least about.
The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, has mapped the distribution of marine species records and found that most of our knowledge of marine biodiversity comes from the shallow waters or the ocean floor, rather than the deep pelagic ocean- the water column deeper than the sunlit surface waters but above the sea bed.
This area is home to uncounted animals which never experience a hard surface, including megamouth sharks, giant squid, and a myriad of smaller species of gelatinous animals and other planktonic organisms.
The research was led by Dr Tom Webb, a Royal Society Research Fellow and marine ecologist from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, in conjunction with the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) secretariat at Rutgers University, and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in the USA.
The team used data from OBIS, which collates all available information on geographical distributions of marine life, to plot the position in the water of seven million records of marine species. They combined this data with a separate dataset of the bottom surface of the ocean, and then attributed each separate record to a position in the ocean, to enable them to provide a global analysis of the depth distribution of recorded marine biodiversity.
The almost limitless deep waters of the sea have been largely under explored due to a long-held belief, first expressed by Charles Wyville Thomson, leader of the challenger Expedition in the 1870s, which effectively launched the discipline of deep sea biology. He believed that life in the deep water was confined primarily to a belt at the surface and one near the sea bed, and believed the area in the middle to be almost completely without larger animals.
More recent sampling, employing new techniques, has revealed that this is not the case, and the deep pelagic is actually teeming with life.
Article continues: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100802173708.htm