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New Depth Record for Living Seafloor Micro-algae
This story entered on 19th Jan, 2004 06:00:00 AM PST

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), using a Remotely Operated Vehicle owned and operated by NOAA's Undersea Research Center at UNCW (NURC-UNCW), the NURP Center for the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico, found microscopic plants living on the seafloor at depths substantially greater than any previously published record.

Dr. Lawrence B. Cahoon of UNCW's Department of Biological Sciences notes that "if this new set of values represents the actual distribution range of photoautotrophic benthic microalgae, then it dramatically increases the depth and areal extent of marine habitats in which benthic microalgal biomass and production may be important."

Researchers Dr. Cahoon and Dr. Richard A. Laws (UNCW's Department of Earth Sciences), assisted by Marine Science graduate student Dorien K. McGee, found a variety of living benthic (live on or in the seafloor) microalgae called diatoms in sediments collected by NURC-UNCW's SuperPhantom II ROV during the 4-day cruise in October 2003. The ROV sampled bottom sediments along two transects which crossed the continental shelf break from depths of 70 to 190 m, well beyond the reach of scuba divers.

The UNCW scientists found a variety of "living" benthic diatom species in every sample collected, including a small set of living pennate (spindle-shaped) species at the deepest sampling site.

Contact information
Name: Andy Shepard
Tel: (910) 962-2441


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Updated: April 1, 2005