The Deep Is A Wonderful Utopia For The Big and Small

ResearchBlogging.orgExperiments in the deep sea are a novelty, like a healthy Southern breakfast. Mmm…biscuits…but I digress. If you want to run a experiment in the intertidal it usually requires $100 of pvc and $100 of a graduate students time (about three weeks). In the deep sea that same experiment will run you that $200 plus another $400,000 for ship and rov/submersible time. This may be one of the reasons why NSF hasn’t gone for my last two grant submissions. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to fund my research…but I digress.

A recent study by Gallucci et al. manages to pull this off. Classic caging experiments (where a cage is used to cover an area to prevent the big guys from chomping away on the wee’ guys or plowing around the sediment generally making a mess of things) were conducted at the HAUSGARTEN site. Apparently, Hausgarten is German for we have lots of money to conduct really cool seafloor experiments so suck on this. Six experimental cages were deployed at 2500m depth (~1.5 miles) and sampled after 4 years. The absence of the big guys, i.e. megafauna, actually lead to less variability in the sediment characteristics. Nematodes, which you should care about because they secretly rule the world, were more abundant inside the cages. This increase in abundance mainly came from rarer (typically low abundance nematodes) increasing in numbers. Interestingly, diversity of nematodes and the taxonomic distinctness of nematodes was greater outside the cages. So what does this all mean?

megafaunal organisms play an important role in creating microhabitats in the sediment and significantly influence deep-sea nematode assemblages

GALLUCCI, F., FONSECA, G., SOLTWEDEL, T. (2008). Effects of megafauna exclusion on nematode assemblages at a deep-sea site. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 55(3), 332-349. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2007.12.001

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

2 Replies to “The Deep Is A Wonderful Utopia For The Big and Small”

  1. Yep! The deep sea is a wondrous place for sure! It is a shame there isn’t the funding to push for habitation there like for space. I am sure there are lots of mysteries down there that could be just as much benefit to mankind as the riddles were unfolded!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  2. Cool. Deep down top-down effects!

    If I find a spare 400K lying around I’ll send it your way, as long as long as I can tag along.

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