Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welker Seamount Sponge Reef

A couple of colleagues and I took a sub ride in Alvin down to 850 meters depth on Welker Seamount in the Gulf of Alaska in 2004, hoping to find abundant deep-sea coral gardens. Instead we found abundant deep-sea sponge gardens, with a few sea fans, like the pink Paragorgia bubblegum coral in the frame below.

What impressed most about this reef was that sponge coverage was high, you couldn't see the seafloor in some parts, and the sponges were habitat for hundreds (of thousands?) of small shrimp. The place was just littered with critters. Look closely and you'll see shrimps' beady eyes peeking out from the cauliflower shaped Farrea occa sponge colonies.