Diverse and abundant megafauna documented at new Atlantic US Marine National Monument

phys.org | 5/16/2018 | Staff
donuzumaki (Posted by) Level 3
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Airborne marine biologists were dazzled by the diversity and abundance of large, unusual and sometimes endangered marine wildlife on a recent trip to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument, about 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod. Scientists with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium observed dozens of dolphins mixing with schools of pilot whales plus more than a dozen of the very rarely seen and mysterious Sowerby's beaked whales. The researchers, aboard a twin engine airplane, also spotted endangered, Moby Dick-like sperm whales as well as the second largest species of sharks in the world and the bizarre-looking giant ocean sunfish or mola mola.

The Northeast Canyons marine monument is a critical hotspot of biodiversity on the edge of the continental shelf where the shallow seas off of New England drop sharply into the deep waters of the northwestern Atlantic. In 2016, President Obama designated three underwater canyons that are deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four seamounts as tall as the Rockies, as the first American marine national monument in Atlantic waters. However in 2017, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommended to President Trump that the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts either be downsized or eliminated. The exact nature of the recommendation has yet to be specified.

Distance - Life - Challenge - Survey - Team

Given the great distance offshore, documenting the marine life there is a challenge. During the 4.5-hour aerial survey, the team spotted 169 bottlenose dolphins, 57 pilot whales, 44 Risso's dolphin's, 13 rare Sowerby's beaked whales, four sperm whales, and 44 other dolphins of various species. In two sightings, they saw a mixed group of up to 50 bottlenose dolphins and 30 pilot whales, but what intrigued the researchers most was that three groups of Sowerby's beaked whales were spotted at the water's surface, a rare occurrence...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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