Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Midwater Biology Logbook
Day 2: Weird and wacky worms
February 18, 2012

We launched the ROV at 7:00 a.m. this morning with plans to do two ROV dives today but we had to pass on the scuba diving due to high winds and choppy seas. When the ROV reached the bottom on its first dive at 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) we immediately came across something very peculiar. It took us a few minutes of observations to figure out what it was, but it was a tube worm hoisting itself across the surface of the sediment with its mouth parts. The tube was about 45 centimeters (18 inches) long and it looked like it took a large amount of effort for the animal to drag itself over the seafloor. We collected this specimen for our worm expert, Karen Osborn, to identify in the lab on the ship.

The tube worm (from the family Onuphidae) on the seafloor.
Karen Osborn uses her camera system to photo-document a wide diversity of deep-sea worms.
The tube worm photographed in the lab out of its tube. Photo by Karen Osborn

We also collected a segmented worm from the benthic boundary layer, which is the layer of water directly above the seafloor. This region is especially interesting to researchers like Karen because of increased levels of biomass and diversity due to the overlapping habitats of the seafloor and the water column. The worm turned out to be one within the group that Karen and her colleagues have recently been doing phylogenic studies on.

From Karen Osborn: Today we spotted a beautiful deep-sea worm we call Spanish dancer or "Juanita" because of their elaborate head appendages and the way they flow back and forth when the animal swims. This genus was first discovered above the Juan de Fuca Ridge by MBARI scientists in 2005. A second species belonging to the genus was found off California in December 2011 and today we found the first reproductive specimen here in the Gulf of California. The worms belong to the group that includes the "bomber" worms described in a recent paper in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. These worms are interesting because they represent a whole group of fairly large worms that, until just a few years ago, were completely unknown to science because they swim in deep water within about 100 meters of the seafloor. This is a very difficult area of the ocean to sample and thus many unknown creatures are found here.

The Spanish dancer or “Juanita” worm photographed in the lab. Photo by Karen Osborn.

During our second dive we searched the waters from depths of 500 meters (1,600 feet) to 200 meters (650 feet) for animals that live within the oxygen minimum zone, which is much wider and more pronounced in the Gulf of California than off the coast of central California. This expedition offers us a peek at what a potential future ocean—warmer and therefore decreased levels of dissolved oxygen—might hold.

CTD graph from today’s dive showing low oxygen values from just below 200 meters to 500 meters (oxygen trace is in yellow & green).

Discouragingly, we saw very few animals at all. No jellyfish, not even copepods. We were recording oxygen saturation levels of less than one percent for much of the dive spotting just the occasional fish swimming by here and there but little else. The only animals we noted in greater abundance were tiny, shelled pteropods (sea butterflies) called Clio. Once the submersible ascended above 200 meters (650 feet) we began to see more shrimp, jellies, squid, and other animals join in the mix.

Small, shelled pteropod, Clio. Photo by Karen Osborn

Tonight we will trawl, then tie everything down and head south to dive at a site near Alarcón Seamount. Stay tuned to see whether our scuba divers will be able to get in the water tomorrow.

—Kyra Schlining

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 Equipment

R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, Gulf of California and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

Blue-water SCUBA diving rig

Blue water diving is a highly specialized mode of scientific diving that lets researchers observe, experiment, and collect delicate midwater organisms in situ. A weighted down line is suspended from the surface for the divers to attach the "trapeze" to which they attach their individual safety lines. Divers are attached to their safety lines by quick releases and a safety diver watches over all of them from near the trapeze throughout the dive.

Two-meter midwater trawl

A midwater trawl collects specimens while being towed behind the Western Flyer. Researchers have the option of trawling with the net open (as seen in this photo) or keeping the net closed until a particular depth is reached and then opening the net. The net can then be closed prior to recovery. This provides scientists with a discrete sample from a particular depth.

Detritus sampler

Detritus samplers are large plexiglass containers with lids that can be controlled by the pilot of the ROV and gently closed once an organism is trapped inside.


 Crew

R/V Western Flyer

Ian Young
Master


 

George Gunther
Relief Captain, Legs 1 & 2


 

Matt Noyes
Chief Engineer


 

Andrew McKee
First Mate, Legs 1 & 2


 

Shaun Summer
Relief First Engineer


 

Paul Ban
Second Mate, Legs 1 & 2


 

Olin Jordan
Oiler


 

Craig Heihn
Relief Deckhand


 

Jason Jordan
Relief Deckhand


 

Dan Chamberlain
Electronics Officer


 

Patrick Mitts
Steward


 

ROV Doc Ricketts

Knute Brekke
Chief ROV Pilot


 

Mark Talkovic
Senior ROV Pilot


 

Randy Prickett
Senior ROV Pilot


 

Bryan Schaefer
ROV Pilot/Technician


 

Eric Martin
ROV Pilot/Technician


 

 Research Team

Steve Haddock
Chief Scientist
MBARI

Steve Haddock studies the biodiversity and bio-optical properties of gelatinous zooplankton (various types of jelly-like animals). He uses molecular and morphological traits to examine the relationships of rarely-studied, deep-sea comb jellies and other open-ocean drifters, many of which are new to science. These animals also are able to make their own light (bioluminescence); Steve is interested in the genes involved in light-production.

Lynne Christianson
Senior Research Technician
MBARI

Lynne works in Steve Haddock's laboratory and her research focuses on exploring the biodiversity of marine zooplankton, especially cnidarians and ctenophores (jellies) and phaeodarians (radiolarians). She uses the tools of molecular biology to aid in the identification of these animals, to study their evolutionary relationships, and to investigate the origin and function of bioluminescence and fluorescence. In addition to assisting in the collection and examination of animals from ROV dives, trawls, and blue-water scuba dives, her main job will be cruise logistics. Her goal is to make this cruise as successful as possible for all the scientists on board! She's looking forward to seeing how the diversity of midwater animals in the Gulf of California compares to those in the Monterey Bay.

Henk-Jan Hoving
Postdoctoral Fellow
MBARI

Henk-Jan is a postdoc in the Midwater Ecology Group of Bruce Robison, Ph.D., investigating the life history strategies of pelagic cephalopods. Cephalopods have one reproductive cycle after which they die. Henk-Jan is interested in how long deep-sea cephalopods live, and how different species shape their reproductive strategies to optimize their single reproductive event. During the expedition in the Gulf of California he hopes to collect various pelagic cephalopod species and determine their age using their statoliths. Statoliths are hard, calcareous masses in the squid's organs of balance in which increments are periodically laid down (similar to rings in a tree). Additionally, a baited camera system will be deployed over the side of the ship to attract and record midwater fish and squid. The species seen by this camera system will be compared with the species encountered using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

George Matsumoto
Senior Research Specialist
MBARI

George works in the fields of research and education. He is interested in a wide variety of gelatinous organisms and is focusing on Bathochordaeus—a large larvacean that has been studied in Monterey Bay using ROVs, but one that we hope to find and work with on scuba while in the Gulf of California. As a senior education and research specialist at MBARI, George's role involves several different projects: seminar coordinator, summer internship coordinator, livelink mentor, distance education, links between the research institute and other partners, and other projects that haven't begun yet. He is interested in the open ocean and deep-sea communities with particular emphasis on invertebrates. Specific areas of interest include: Ecology and biogeography of open ocean and deep sea organisms; Functional morphology, natural history, and behavior of pelagic and benthic organisms; Systematics and evolution of ctenophores and cnidarians (molecular phylogeny).

Kyra Schlining
Senior Research Technician
MBARI

Kyra is a senior research technician in the video lab at MBARI. Her main responsibility, both on shore and at sea, is to manage and annotate the video footage recorded during MBARI ROV missions. Kyra specializes in identifying deep-sea organisms and describing their behaviors, as well as, recording observations on habitat and equipment. On the ship,she will also assist with processing biological samples and writing up the cruise logs. Kyra's duties in the video lab also include assisting scientists with accessing the data from the video database for publications, editing video from our archives using Final Cut Pro, and presenting current MBARI research to the public, mainly through our sister organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Meghan Powers
Graduate Research Assistant
MBARI

Meghan is a doctoral candidate at University of California, Santa Cruz working in Steve Haddock's lab. Her research is focused on understanding the molecular biology and evolution of bioluminescence in a variety of deep-sea zooplankton including cephalopods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish.

Stephanie Bush
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Rhode Island

Stephanie joined the Seibel Lab at the University of Rhode Island as a postdoctoral researcher after finishing her graduate work in MBARI's Midwater Ecology Lab and the Caldwell Lab at University of California, Berkeley. She is broadly interested in marine organismal ecology, and her current research explores animal physiological adaptations to living in oxygen minimum zones and how we can predict the response of marine organisms to ocean warming. Additionally, she is part of collaborative effort to study animal camouflage in open water, focusing particularly on the polarization components. She is also interested in the connectivity between populations of planktonic animals and how it relates to speciation and biodiversity in the open ocean.

Rebeca Gasca
Collaborator
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal, Mexico

Rebeca's research is on the biology and ecology of zooplankton, especially of siphonophores and hyperiid amphipods. She is interested in community changes related with water masses and environmental phenomena like El Niño. Also, the symbiotic associations between gelatinous zooplankton and hyperiids have been among her main interests and this kind of expedition represents an opportunity to observe those behaviors in situ.

Karen Osborn
Scientist
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

After completing her Ph.D at UC Berkeley and MBARI, then a postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Karen received a scientist position at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on the evolution of pelagic invertebrates, primarily polychaete worms and isopod crustaceans. During this expedition she will be working on drifting acorn worms, systematics of tomopterid polychaetes, and the feeding and population genetics of munnopsid isopods.

Erik Thuesen
Professor
Evergreen State College

Erik Thuesen is a member of the faculty in Zoology at The Evergreen State College. His research focuses on the ecological physiology and biodiversity of marine invertebrates. He has studied many kinds of gelatinous zooplankton, including chaetognaths, ctenophores, and medusae. He is particularly interested in the physiological and biochemical adaptations to life in marine environments, such as the deep sea and estuaries. He received a B.S. from Antioch College, a M.A. from the University of Tokyo and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara. At Evergreen, he teaches invertebrate zoology, symbiosis, biodiversity and marine science.



Last updated: Feb. 27, 2012