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Coral Hotspots found off Northeast US Coast

A survey of underwater canyons off the U.S. East Coast found a number of previously unknown hotspots for deep-sea corals
Sponges (yellow) and deep-sea corals on the edge of Middle Toms Canyon at a depth of approximately 1600 meters (5,249 feet)
 |     |   10-22-2012
The survey revealed coral “hotspots,” and found that a new coral habitat suitability model could help predict where corals are likely to occur.
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The deep-sea coral and sponge habitats observed in the canyons are not like those found in shallow-water tropical reefs or deep-sea coral habitats in other regions

The exploration, the first to look for corals and sponges in the area in decades, is helping researchers develop a computer model to determine where other coral hotspots might be found.

More than 70 deepwater canyons, ranging in depth from 330 to 11,500 feet (100 to 3,500 m), exist along the Northeast's continental shelf and slope. Few are well studied, and many are likely home to as yet undiscovered life-forms.

The researchers took thousands of photographs of the coral using a remotely operated camera towed behind the ship. The corals observed live at depths between 650 and 6,500 feet (200 to 2,000 meters).

Although no specimens were collected during this expedition, the thousands of images taken will be analyzed in the coming months to determine what types of coral live there.

Findings from this cruise will not only improve knowledge about deep-sea life off the Northeastern US, but will also aid the New England and Mid-Atlantic fishery management councils in their efforts to manage these habitats, which support a variety of fish species and other marine life.

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