Recently taken pictures of Iceland’s sea floor revealed rich and varied wildlife, and even a mystery creature that remains unidentified. The pictures were taken on a research expedition in late June and early July, and show Iceland’s seabed is remarkably full of life. Though extensive research is conducted on fish in Icelandic waters, very little research has been done on the sea floor and its inhabitants, which, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute asserts, are an important part of the marine food chain.
Wide variety of organisms
Sea cucumbers, starfish, sponges, coral, and bacteria were just some of the organisms found and photographed on the recent expedition. Pictures were taken both within fishing zones and untouched areas at a depth of 100-700m (330-2,300ft). The seabed and its organisms proved diverse. In Jökuldjúp, west of the Reykjanes peninsula, for example, the sea floor was mostly clay and sand and the sea cucumber Laetmogone violacea was widespread. Sponges, on the other hand, made their homes where the seabed was harder.
Researchers were unsurprised to find healthy coral reefs on steep areas of the continental shelf off the south coast. In areas where fishing is permitted, however, dead coral reefs were present and some coral which had previously existed was now gone.
[media-credit name=”Marine and Freshwater Research Institute.” align=”alignnone” width=”1024″] [/media-credit]
The expedition also caught a picture of an animal unfamiliar to researchers, who have yet to identify it. The creature in question is light blue in colour, with a large, square foot and two rows of tendrils. “There are over 3,000 known species of bottom feeders around Iceland but only a fraction of them has been photographed to date,” the Institute revealed in a press release. “Whether this animal belongs to any of these known species or whether it’s a new species in Iceland we do not yet know.”
By mapping habitats on the seabed, researchers hope to better understand the importance and prevalence of sea floor ecosystems, and thus determine their potential function or use, as well as whether they need to be protected.