Rocky Reefs and Sponge Gardens off Southern California
With researchers from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, E/V Nautilus explored the biologically diverse region of Santa Lucia Bank off Southern California, part of the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, and a ridge-like feature named Poti Peninsula, located south of Anacapa Island. At both locations, our Corps of Exploration discovered richly biodiverse rocky reefs and sponge gardens located at depths of more than 1500 meters (5,000 feet).
One unusual large, orange-hued deep-sea sponge was nicknamed the "Cheetos sponge." The two green laser points seen in the video represent 10 centimeters (4 inches) — a size that suggests this sponge could be more than a century old! A number of other deep-sea creatures were seen thriving along its base, including grey tube-like sponges.
Other seafloor sightings included a female brooding octopus seen producing “glue” to safely secure her eggs to the rocks — when the eggs hatch, that glue is left behind. Our team also spotted a benthic siphonophore connected to the seafloor by thin translucent threads, and predatory tunicates that spend their lives anchored to the seafloor, capturing drifting prey in their translucent hoods.
A closer look at any one of these deep-sea habitats revealed that there is always a deeper layer of biodiversity waiting to be discovered.
This expedition aims to continue work previously conducted by the U.S. West Coast Deep-Sea Coral Initiative and the EXpanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS). To date, the majority of seafloor characterization has focused on nearshore and shallow areas.