Climate Uncategorized

Mariners discover new ecosystem in the Indian Ocean

Trapping zone

HQ Team

October 15, 2022: Scientists have discovered a new ecosystem 500 metres deep in the Indian Ocean.

The ecosystem, called ‘The Trapping Zone’, is a hive of activity supporting many lifeforms. Marine biologists aboard the Nekton Maldives Mission collected various biological samples, video evidence and extensive sonar mapping, before honing on this unique zone

While exploring the area, the biologists witnessed predators such as sharks and large tuna engaging in a feeding frenzy.  The animals were preying on small sea creatures called micro-nekton.

Micro-nektons are tiny aquatic organisms that swim independently of the current and feed on zooplankton. They could be cephalopods (squid), crustaceans (shrimp), or other tiny fishes.

Trapping Zone was named so because the micro-nekton appear to be trapped against the subsea landscape of the Indian Ocean.

The micro creatures swim to the surface of the ocean at certain times in the night and swarm back into the deep sea at dawn The phenomenon is known as ‘The Vertical Migration’, the largest nightly migration on Earth.

These organisms are targeted by large animals at the 500-metre mark.

“We’re particularly intrigued at this depth – why is this occurring? Is this something that’s specific at 500 metres and does this life go even deeper?,” says the mission’s lead scientist, Professor Lucy Woodall.

Tiger sharks, six-gill sharks, sand tiger sharks, dogfish, gulper sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, silky sharks and the very rare bramble shark have all been documented at this 500-metre depth.

Most probably, the reason for the micro-nekton becoming ready targets for the predators are the steep vertical cliffs and fossilised coral reefs scattered along the volcanic subsea strata of the Indian Ocean. These prevent them from diving further into the ocean.

Professor Alex Rogers, a part of the s Nekton mission, said that The Trapping Zone ‘has all the hallmarks of a distinct new ecosystem.’ He believes that similar environments could exist near other islands and continental slopes.

“Knowledge obviously will help us to protect the ocean because then we know which areas we need to protect, which areas we need to manage properly and also how we manage the development of tourism as well as the fisheries sector,” explains Shauna Aminath, Maldives Environment Minister.

Maldives and the surrounding ocean is an exciting destination for scientists following up on climate change. Data gathered on the Nekton Mission about the state of the country’s coral reef – which offers a natural sea defence – will be eagerly sought by policymakers attending the COP27 climate summit next month.

The Nekton expedition is a joint partnership between the Government of Maldives and the Maldives Marine Research Institute.

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