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The mid-Atlantic Ridge - an oasis of animal communities

News release
From the press conference in Bergen, Odd Aksel Bergstad (standing) is presenting the findings of the MAR-ECO expedition 2004.
[06.08.2004] Exploring life in the mid-Atlantic at various depths down to 4 km (2.5 miles), 60 scientists from 13 countries on a two-month expedition summer 2004 have surfaced a wealth of new information and insights, stunning images and marine life specimens, several thought to be species never before known to science. August 5, the highlights and preliminary results from the MAR-ECO expedition 2004 was made public, at a News conference at Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen, Norway.
Using remotely-operated deep-sea vehicles, hydroacoustics and other technologies for sampling and remote observation, the Norwegian-led MAR-ECO Expedition part of the 10-year, $1 billion Census of Marine Life has captured or recorded rare and potentially new species of squid and fish, measured the abundance of life, and advanced knowledge of - while raising new questions about - many other aspects of the Mid-Atlantic ecosystem.

Among the scientists' discoveries and interests

The diversity of animal communities in mid-water and along the bottom in a major section of the global system of mid-oceanic ridges has been documented using an  arsenal of methods and technologies. Thus far recorded are around 300 fish species, 50 squids and octopods, and an unknown number of planktonic species yet to be identified and enumerated. ~ read more

Rings of planktonic organisms observed by echosounders, massed by underwater forces into circular structures measuring more than 10 km wide, an example of underwater "physical-biological coupling" and thought to be the largest such structures ever recorded. ~ read more

Repeated observations of  a reef-building cold-water coral known as Lophelia pertusa. No major reefs were found, but it is now documented that the species occurs along this section of the mid-Atlantic Ridge. ~ read more

New insights into the significance and ecology of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone and the Sub-Polar Front. ~ read more

Two specimens of the rare Aphyonus gelatinosus, a strange bottom-dwelling, semi-transparent fish covered in a gelatinous layer, recorded only once before in the North Atlantic. ~ read more

A new deep-sea mystery in the form of burrows left by an animal at 2000 meters on a seamount north of the Azores. The lines of evenly-spaced, 5 cm-wide holes create the impression of someone having "used a sewing machine to create this landscape," according to the researchers. While the suspected burrower is a large crustacean or deep-sea blind lobster, several questions linger. "Perhaps each line is a burrow with multiple entries, or is it a succession of burrows with just a single opening, but then how and why can these lines be that straight?" ~ read more

Also among the more than 80,000 specimens collected

Extensive analyses will be conducted to disprove or verify these and other candidate specimens as new species. 

About the project

MAR-ECO is an international research project in which scientists from 16 nations take part. Norway, represented by the Institute of Marine Research and the University of Bergen, co-ordinates the project which will enhance our understanding of occurrence, distribution and ecology of animals and animal communities along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores. The project, which started in 2001 and lasts until 2008, is an element of the Census of Marine Life (


See the full press release with selected highlights from the scientists’ findings!  

~ Findings
~ Introduction 
~ Facts

Selected highlights
~ Hydroacoustic recording
~ Mesoscale ring structures
~ New squid species
~ Fish fauna
~ Charlie-Gibbs fracture zone
~ Bottom fauna
~ Gelatinous zooplankton

~ Full press release (in pdf.)
~ Resumé of the findings (in pdf.)

See also
~G.O. Sars-cruise-journal


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