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September 10, 2012
by Shelley Dawicki

crew working in ship's wet lab
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Bear Seamount Teems with Deep-Water Sea Life

Students Collect Specimens for Research, Museums

Slickheads, catsharks or cutthroat eels, anyone?  These and other specimens of fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans are just a few of the animals being collected from bottom and midwater depths around Bear Seamount in the western North Atlantic during an August 29-September 8 cruise aboard the NOAA Ship PISCES, headed by NEFSC’s Mike Vecchione.  Bear Seamount is a flat-topped, extinct, underwater volcano, located in deep water about 160 miles southeast of Nantucket.

The collected animals provide a range of rarely available biological samples and information.  Tissues samples are collected; freshly collected specimens are carefully examined to document features that can be used to identify the species and relate its development to that of other species, and to preserve as voucher specimens.  Voucher specimens are the permanent record of the animal from a specific community, held in museum collections.  These specimens will go to  the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum at Yale University, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and the Fish Collection of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

“These collections and observations contribute to ongoing research on deepwater nekton, the free-swimming organisms that move independent of currents, in the western north Atlantic,” said Vecchione, chief scientist for the cruise.  Vecchione, an expert in deep-sea cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and nautilus), is director of NOAA Fisheries’ National Systematics Laboratory, located in the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

The Pisces cruise also provides at-sea experience in deep-sea biology to students from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Florida Atlantic University, Eckerd College, University of Hawaii, University of Rhode Island, and Yale University. Check out post-doctoral researcher Michelle Staudinger's guest blog posts at Deep Sea News.

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