Monday, May 23, 2011

Octocorals galore!

May 20th 2011

I study deep-sea octocorals, primarily Primnoidae, a family of coral whose polyps are covered with an armour of protective calcium carbonate scales (see the first image of polyps of Thouarella chilensis taken through a Scanning Electron Microscope). They occur globally but are most common in the sub-Antarctic, where we are now. In stark contrast to Eric, I have been inundated with them (a few colonies of Thouarella chilensis we have sampled are in the second image)! The shelf areas we have been sampling have lots of nutrients and fast flowing water, ideal for Primnoidae (in fact most octocorals…apart from Eric’s Chrysogorgidae that is!). One haul brought in several bucket loads. So far we have sampled 12 different genera, probably representing around 20 species. Of these at least two are new to science, a very exciting prospect.

I have just finished my PhD studying deep-sea octocorals from around South Georgia (to the north east of where we are right now) so samples from the opposite side of the Drake Passage and into its depths will make an interesting contrast. I use genetics to study diversity in octocorals and I would like to see if there are genetic differences from octocorals found on each side of the Drake Passage, as given its size and strength this rapidly moving water mass may act as a barrier to gene flow.

For the time being, as we continue to sample more southerly and deeper waters, I wait excitedly to see what other new octocorals come up in the next haul…

By: Michelle

Weather: Temperature 30°F. windchill 2°F, windspeed 20-25 knots increasing to 30-35 knots, cloudy

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) picture of Thouarella chilensis polyps (M. Taylor).

Thouarella chilensis found during NBP1103.

Egrets hitching a ride this morning on the Palmer (S. Hoy).

Sandy and Ben retrieving the Dropcam this evening.

David, Lindsey and Suzy sampling and archiving the fossil corals, and Andrew in the background cleaning the sampled corals (T. van der Flierdt).

1 comment:

  1. I often get emotionally involved. Like when I read your post, I can cry, laugh, sad, funny, depending on your written words. I think you are a sensitive person.