by Eric Hanneman
Originally posted on Deepwater Canyons:
There are some interesting and smart people aboard, and I will try to tell one of the stories I have pieced together, some from what I already knew, but much from what I have learned on the boat. The Deepwater Canyon Expedition, using the ROV Kraken 2, has documented in Baltimore Canyon several types of corals and many other invertebrates as well as fish. There are several different types of anemones, including a pink one that looks superficially like the Condylactus sp. found in the Caribbean. There are sponges, quill worms, a red squid, red crabs, spider crabs, several types of squat lobsters, shrimp, lots of krill-like shrimps, amphipods, and recently deep sea mussels. There are also some colonies of soft coral.
We are mainly interested in three families of corals: primnoids, plexaurids, and paragorgiids. The main deepwater coral we are finding on this expedition is Paragorgia arborea. It has a worldwide distribution, in the North Atlantic, Gulf of Alaska, and off the coasts of New Zealand and Argentina. Like all Paragorgiids, it is an octocoral, which refers to the 8 tentacles found on the polyps. The polyps are the individual animals that together form the coral colony. Another large group of corals, the hexacorals, have 6 tentacles per polyp. There are hard and soft hexacorals. The hard, stony hexacorals, which includes Lophelia, are the reef building corals in the tropics with which most people are familiar. We have not seen any Lophelia in Baltimore Canyon, although it is the primary reef-building species in the deep sea.