In 2001, NOAA created a program to explore Earth’s largely unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. This program, now part of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER), continues to advance NOAA and national goals to better understand the ocean through discovery, research, technology development, outreach and education. OER responds to emerging scientific issues leading to discoveries and new technologies that benefit society. The accomplishments highlighted here are examples of the breadth, diversity, reach and importance of ocean exploration over the course of the program's first 10 years.
In a four-way association, a hermit crab is associated with a soft coral (red, with its polyps retracted), with the hermit crab and sea anemone sharing a snail shell. We also see a wonderful example of commensalism, a relationship beween two species–the crab and the anemone–in which one lives with, on, or in another without damage to either. The anemone, (like all cnidarians) has stinging cells that help protect the crab from predators and the anemone benefits from having a free ride around the seafloor habitat, as well as receiving scraps from the crab's feeding activities. When the crab outgrows its borrowed shell, it finds a larger vacant shell…and brings the anemone along to share its new home. This image is from a joint Indonesia - U.S. expedition to the Sulawesi Sea. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.
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