JC36: Geology & biology of the Whittard Canyon


Cruise diary

29 June 2009
Location: NE Atlantic, 48° 44’ N / 11° 11’W

Natalie writes (with some help from Paul!):

Today as Isis continued its exploration of the submarine canyon system, there was a huge variety of life – we collected a stalked sponge, so our biologists can investigate and understand the relationship of this individual with other sponges. Sponges are one of those groups where one species can have different shapes depending on how the water flows past them. I thought it looked a lot like a water lily, but Paul tells me it’s actually more like a bath sponge on a stick. Water passes through the sponge by the action of small flagellae (like cilia) and the particles are filtered off and ingested as food to support their existence

We also saw many sea lilies, which are closely related to the starfish seen on the beach. However, they are much more delicate because they are only found in deep water. We also collected a sample of bamboo coral, so called because of the ridges it develops along its stems as it grows, as well as the closely-related seawhips, which are up to 1m tall and very thin.

We also encountered a sheer chalk cliff and a cave. These features help us to understand how the movement and flow of water shapes the environment we are so privileged to see, because of our submersible vehicle ISIS.

Crinoids (sea lilies)

Stalked sponge

The chalk cliff

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