How the Aquarium collects strange creatures from the depths

How the Aquarium collects strange creatures from the depths

There are two types of people on board the search vessel Rachel Why: I'm there, very sick and spending a good amount of time on the deck trying to keep an eye on the bobbing horizon, and there are the scientists who are monitoring the vehicle working on it distance hangs down. Sitting in a chair with a joystick on the armrest, surrounded by shiny monitors in an alternate room, a pilot guides the SUV-sized robot through a galaxy of life - small fish, swimsuits. -free, sea spears and other gelatinous criteria that gart out of the way - stop so often to remove something from the list of sex shops.

Scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and its affiliated Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, are finding an approach to sampling for a new exhibition, Into the Deep, opening in the spring. It will be loaded with fragile, rarely seen, healthy animals kept in life support systems that aquarists have taken years to perfect. "Some of them say 'wet wet paper,'" said Wyatt Patry, a leading water expert, referring to the species they are looking for. “You just rub it with your finger and it starts to tear apart. Some of the animals are so calm. ”

Video: Matt Simon

We are about an hour off the coastal town of California Moss Landing, where the seabed is deeply drained, opening up a vast expanse of the water column below. As soon as we parked over this area, the deck had come to life with staff, who would use a crane to gently lower the remotely operated Ventana vehicle into the water. . Pulling a tent that both keeps the robot from escaping and gives the pilot real-time control, the machine immediately goes down and out of sight.

Now down to about 1,600 feet, the ROV is starting to collect animals in two ways: through pipes and with juice. To use the tubes, the pilot inches one of two mechanical arms toward a sample ball. Each wears clear tubes, directed vertically. As soon as an animal slides inside a tube, close doors on each end of the swing swing, trapping it inside.

Video: © 2022 MBARI

In the video above, the robot uses a tube to collect screen comb jelly, Thalassocalyx inconstant. Comb jellies are indeed gelatinous, so the care taken here, but they are not spears at all. They have bites, but instead of being full of captive cells, the appendages are sticky for plucking prey.

Video: © 2022 MBARI

Here's another collection of combed jelly, with famous grips and brilliant flavors of color, apparently belonging to a new variety (the above - genus classification) that has not been formally described by researchers. 'We don't know much about it,' said Patry. “We do not know what it eats; we do not know who eats it. So that's very secretive. "

Video: © 2022 MBARI

This train track jelly comb makes a lightweight display. But the shower is not what you think. Biomonomy is everywhere in the depths - animals radiate with symbiotic bacteria, for example, to attract prey or friends. The color of the comb jelly instead comes from tiny structures, called cilia, which guide the creature, and only sinn you can see it: The bright light of the ROV actually shows off the beating cilia. In the darkness typical of this part of the ocean, no color would be visible.

Video: © 2022 MBARI

The video above shows the second assembly method of an ROV, which uses a funnel with a soft switch power for animals that can withstand a little more handling than the fine comb jellies. The pilot just has to hook the funnel up to this golf tee spear, and the juice does the rest. After passing through the funnel, the animal is locked into a vessel in the abdomen of the robot.

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Video: © 2022 MBARI

This is a Christmas tree siphonophore. Like comb jellies, siphonophores are gelatinous but not spears. They are hydrozoans, made up of units with different functions that come together to form a colony. They are self-sustaining many times over, with some species stretching 100 feet long.

Video: Matt Simon

Once these samples are secure, the pilot will bring the ROV to the adjacent surface Rachel Why, and the crew snatching with the mast. Patry and the other scientists rip in and load the collection tubes, running them over to a small hut on the deck. They carefully transfer the samples to plastic containers, which then go into refrigerators.

Video: Matt Simon

Two hours later, while we are tying up at a pier, they again rush the animals to a van waiting to be taken to the aquarium, where the much happier samples in proper life support systems.

Video: Matt Simon

You may be asking: If human divers get the bend when they climb from just a few hundred feet deep too fast, is there any harm in bringing those animals up from 1,600 feet? Interestingly enough, they are fine. And once they reach the aquarium, their displays are matched to the water pressure, temperature and salinity used by the animals. The waters also pass over the water through a special membrane that removes almost all oxygen, replicating the low oxygen environment that the creatures that once housed were once home.

This is an environment that scientists want to understand, as the oceans are transforming under the pressure of climate change. Just as plants do on land, photosynthetic algae called phytoplankton absorb carbon dioxide and are themselves eaten by animals, which emit carbon-laden pesticides. come down to the seabed. So carbon is taken out of the atmosphere and locked away in the depths, but scientists don't know how that could change as the oceans warm and warm. acidifying.

"Of course, damaging that carbon sink can be devastating," says Patry. “One of the highlights of the exhibition is deep-sea mining, which has the potential to be disastrous in a number of ways. ”Mining equipment can excavate the fine sediment on the seabed, generating large plugs that rise up in the water column. “This is going to eliminate all that is gelatinous and sensitive to that,” Patry says.

Video: © 2022 MBARI

This video shows the ROV in brass waters - loaded with very few white flakes, to be sure, but these are busy critics turning that carbon into pellets. They are not modified in any way to survive clouds of mills polluting their habitat. "As if killing carbon converters isn't bad enough, then you block light from some of the thinner areas," Patry says. That makes photosynthetic algae so productive. “Now you start working by taking the ocean directly, especially the high productivity zones. ”

A trip like this is both a way of collecting samples to show the public and gain a better understanding of these organisms - to learn “who lives in depth, what they do in depth, and what role they play in the ecosystem, ”says Patry. "Every opportunity you get to do so is valuable to science."


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