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Geomorphological evidence of large vertebrates interacting with the seafloor at abyssal depths in a region designated for deep-sea mining

Geomorphological evidence of large vertebrates interacting with the seafloor at abyssal depths in a region designated for deep-sea mining
Geomorphological evidence of large vertebrates interacting with the seafloor at abyssal depths in a region designated for deep-sea mining

Exploration licences for seafloor mineral deposits have been granted across large areas of the world's oceans, with the abyssal Pacific Ocean being the primary target for polymetallic nodules-a potentially valuable source of minerals. These nodule-bearing areas support a large diversity of deep-sea life and although studies have begun to characterize the benthic fauna within the region, the ecological interactions between large bathypelagic vertebrates of the open ocean and the abyssal seafloor remain largely unknown. Here we report seafloor geomorphological alterations observed by an autonomous underwater vehicle that suggest large vertebrates could have interacted with the seafloor to a maximum depth of 4258 m in the recent geological past. Patterns of disturbance on the seafloor are broadly comparable to those recorded in other regions of the world's oceans attributed to beaked whales. These observations have important implications for baseline ecological assessments and the environmental management of potential future mining activities within this region of the Pacific.

Autonomous underwater vehicle, Clarion-Clipperton zone, Deep-diving mammals, Deep-sea mining, Ichnology, Marine mammals
Marsh, Leigh
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Huvenne, Veerle A.I.
f22be3e2-708c-491b-b985-a438470fa053
Jones, Daniel O.B.
44fc07b3-5fb7-4bf5-9cec-78c78022613a
Marsh, Leigh
b9d089aa-91e4-4a2e-b716-a7352616c6a2
Huvenne, Veerle A.I.
f22be3e2-708c-491b-b985-a438470fa053
Jones, Daniel O.B.
44fc07b3-5fb7-4bf5-9cec-78c78022613a

Marsh, Leigh, Huvenne, Veerle A.I. and Jones, Daniel O.B. (2018) Geomorphological evidence of large vertebrates interacting with the seafloor at abyssal depths in a region designated for deep-sea mining. Royal Society Open Science, 5 (8), [180286]. (doi:10.1098/rsos.180286).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Exploration licences for seafloor mineral deposits have been granted across large areas of the world's oceans, with the abyssal Pacific Ocean being the primary target for polymetallic nodules-a potentially valuable source of minerals. These nodule-bearing areas support a large diversity of deep-sea life and although studies have begun to characterize the benthic fauna within the region, the ecological interactions between large bathypelagic vertebrates of the open ocean and the abyssal seafloor remain largely unknown. Here we report seafloor geomorphological alterations observed by an autonomous underwater vehicle that suggest large vertebrates could have interacted with the seafloor to a maximum depth of 4258 m in the recent geological past. Patterns of disturbance on the seafloor are broadly comparable to those recorded in other regions of the world's oceans attributed to beaked whales. These observations have important implications for baseline ecological assessments and the environmental management of potential future mining activities within this region of the Pacific.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 24 July 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 1 August 2018
Published date: 22 August 2018
Keywords: Autonomous underwater vehicle, Clarion-Clipperton zone, Deep-diving mammals, Deep-sea mining, Ichnology, Marine mammals

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 423598
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/423598
PURE UUID: 19511bca-9960-45e9-b631-7d1ee94c3e89
ORCID for Veerle A.I. Huvenne: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-7135-6360

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 27 Sep 2018 16:30
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 01:53

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Contributors

Author: Leigh Marsh
Author: Veerle A.I. Huvenne ORCID iD
Author: Daniel O.B. Jones

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