and black solitary cup coral were collected from the ocean floor about 200 meters below the surface.
Back on land
After twelve dives in the submersible DeepSea to explore Coiba’s Hannibal Bank at depths from 60 to 340 meters and two additional compression dives to 50 meters to observe fish gathering in the shallowest habitats, STRI’s Hector Guzman and colleagues are back on land, beginning to evaluate the results from the first undersea exploration of the seamount.
They collected 97 animal samples including several species of echinoderms—sea urchins, basket stars, starfish and brittlestars. Fifteen soft coral species, including sea pens, gorgonians and sea whips, three species of black corals and four species of hydrocorals including the lace corals Stylaster and Distichopora were recovered. At least ten of these animals are likely to be added to the list of species found in Panama, and others may be new to science.
Identification of all of the samples will take months and will involve input from experts around the world. Scientists from Panama’s government laboratory, INDICASAT, will cultivate bacteria from 104 tissue samples taken from the collections. Researchers will not know for some time if any of these samples holds a new cure for cancer or one of several tropical diseases.
Guzman hopes to return to Hannibal Banks to conduct a more extensive survey of undersea life and to present information about the scarcity of commercial fish on Hannibal Bank to policy makers and conservation groups.