Unknown ecosystem discovered in the Indian Ocean at a depth of 500 meters

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the University of Oxford, together with other specialists participating in the Nekton Maldives mission, have discovered evidence of the existence of a previously unknown ecosystem – a “trap zone” that creates an oasis of biodiversity at a depth of 500 meters in the Indian Ocean, in the Maldives.

Ecosystem observations were made using Nekton cameras aboard the Omega Seamaster II submersible. The specialists also collected an extensive collection of biological samples and carried out sonar mapping of the bottom area.

It turned out that sharks and other large fish feed on micronekton – microscopic organisms that can swim actively and are prone to vertical migration.

At night, micronekton rises to the surface of the sea, and during the day it sinks to a depth, but in this area it gets stuck at around 500 meters.

The ecosystem is formed by volcanic underwater strata and fossilized remnants of carbonate reefs, which form the basis of the Maldivian atolls.

Vertical cliffs and gently sloping terraces prevent microorganisms from diving deeper, causing them to become food for diurnal pelagic predators, including tuna, sharks, and large deep-sea fish, including the spiny dory Neocyttus rhomboidalis and the stunted beryx Beryx splendens.

Researchers have documented tiger sharks, gill sharks, tiger sand sharks, otters, stump sharks, bronze hammerhead sharks, silky sharks and star sharks.

The trap effect is usually associated with biodiversity-rich sites on seamounts and has not previously been observed in oceanic islands such as the Maldives.

The Nekton Maldives mission, which set sail on September 4, is coordinated and managed by Nekton, a non-profit research institute based in Oxford’s Begbroke Science Park.

The mission is a partnership between the Government of the Maldives, Nekton and Oxford University. The goal is to conduct the first systematic study of ocean life in the Maldives, from the surface to a depth of 1,000 meters.

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