This chrysogorgiid octocoral, unfamiliar our scientists, serves as a host to squat lobsters - just two of the exciting observations from our dive in the Pichincho area. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Exploring Puerto Rico’s Seamounts, Trenches, and Troughs. Download larger version (jpg, 1.7 MB).
Dive 3: Pichincho
Highlights the third dive of the expedition exploring Pichincho, an area identified as high priority for exploration by the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Océano Profundo 2015: Exploring Puerto Rico’s Seamounts, Trenches, and Troughs. Download (mp4, 60.0 MB)
ROV Deep Discoverer (D2) had a fantastic dive today exploring Pichincho, an area identified as high priority for exploration by the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council. During this dive, we traversed a fault scarp through the upper part of the Oligocene-Miocene platform carbonate sequence. D2 landed on a sedimented bottom with bivalve shells, small rubble, scattered detritus, and anthropogenic (human-produced) trash. As D2 transited upslope, we encountered a number of carbonate rock faces that were encrusted with benthic fauna, predominantly sponges, which were under overhangs and on non-sedimented surfaces. Towards the end of the dive, D2 encountered complicated carbonate topography with rounded outcrops, sinkholes, and large cracks. This is typical karst topography, which provides evidence that this location was once above sea level. Biological observations during this dive included a low abundance of at least 13 species of fish, few octocorals, lace corals, black corals, cup corals, a variety of sea stars, crinoids, squat lobsters, brittle stars, urchins, zooanthids, and shrimp. We also encountered several instances of trash littering the seafloor. Highlights of the dive included species that have yet to be formally described, a “walking” Chaunax pictus, and rare observations of a seastars preying upon sponges.