Most coral reef studies are done in the daytime, when scientists are up and about. But action on the coral reef goes on 24 hrs a day. So what happens when the sun sets and the moon comes out, or when the moon doesn’t come out? We also think of coral reefs as shallow water ecosystems, but on tropical atolls like Tetiaroa the reef slope quickly descends to thousands of meters. Every night deep ocean fish and plankton rise to the surface and interact with reef fish and larvae in a frenzy of feeding and escape.
The most abundant fish on the planet, deep-water lanternfish, play a lead role in this nightly migration. An understanding of the ecological roles of these species in the Twilight Zone may be key to keeping our oceans healthy in an uncertain future.
Professor Jeff Shima of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and Steve Swearer spent a month on Tetiaroa recently to begin a new research project to use Tetiaroa as an outpost to study this amazing interaction of reef and deep ocean species.
The project will also use The Brando resort’s SWAC system which is pumping up deep ocean water from 1km down the reef slope. This brings cold deep ocean water into the Ecostation wet lab and will allow them to keep deep ocean fish alive in the lab for studies.