Researchers sort the catch into fishes, crustaceans, squids, and jellyfishes. (Provided by DEEPEND)

Science at Sea: Deep-Sea Research Informs Taxonomic Assessment of Gulf Fauna

The deep-pelagic ecosystem was the largest habitat affected by the Deepwater Horizon incident, yet our limited knowledge about its fauna makes it difficult to compare their conditions before and after the spill. Researchers with the DEEPEND consortium are developing a quantitative, taxonomically comprehensive assessment of these deep-sea creatures to estimate their vulnerability and ability to recover from disturbances.

One of many fascinating creatures in the deep Gulf of Mexico is the Melanocetus johnsoni. This anglerfish has a fleshy growth from its head (the esca or illicium) that acts as a lure. (Photo by Dante´ Fenolio)

Discovering Vibrant, Dynamic Life in the Deep Gulf of Mexico

DEEPEND expands knowledge as a restoration tool for the Gulf’s largest ecosystem. Much uncertainty remains about impacts on the deep-sea environment from the 2010 oil spill that erupted more than 5,000 feet below the sea surface. However, knowing what was affected or what may change in the future is particularly difficult with little to no pre-existing knowledge about this obscure ecosystem. Environmental impact assessments of an area require some baseline of what lives and happens there.