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R2750VL2819 Cephalopoda

A small mollusc with the Latin name Cephalopoda. Video-photo: Mareano/IMR

Meet the churchyard residents!

Expedition diary: The Mareano expedition has reached Kirkegården (“the churchyard”), south-east of Svalbard and Spitsbergen Bank. We lower a large camera rig to the sea floor to have a look. Mud and sand are whirled up when we land, and initially we cannot see a thing. At first sight the sea bottom at Kirkegården appears to be a desert, but in spite of its sinister name, this churchyard is full of life! Here you will meet some of its many residents. 

First the landowners, the bristle worm Spiochaetopterus. They hide in the sediments, in their cosy, sheltered homes that are shaped like straws. Bristle worms are highly numerous, with around 750 different species recorded along the Norwegian coast! This shy bristle worm peeps carefully up from its safe home in order to find something to eat and to inspect the neighbourhood. 

Bilde av børstemark som viser som rør oppå sandbunnen. Børstemarkene bor inne i rørene som ser ut som sugerør.
A number of bristle worms sticking up from the muddy sediments. Video-photo: Mareano/IMR

The neighbours it sees include the abundant bottom-dwelling shrimps, which often perform a little “moonwalk” dance when the camera rig lands with its bright spotlights.

Bilde av en liten reke som ligger på havbunnen.
A small bottom-dwelling shrimp. Video-photo: Mareano/IMR

The colourful anemones look soft and beautiful, but don’t underestimate them: their tentacles are a dangerous trap with stinging cells that help them to catch any food that comes close to them.

Bilde av en rosaaktig anemone på bunnen. I tillegg er det en hvit/rosa anemone litt lenger bak. Begge vokser på havbunnen.
Anemones waiting for a passing prey organism. Video-photo: Mareano/IMR

 

Bilder av sekkedyr. Denne arten ser ut som gjennomsiktige multebær.
Colonial sea squirts. Video-photo: Mareano / IMR

There are lots of beautiful gardens in the churchyard. However, they are not home to flowers, but rather colonies of sea squirts packed tightly together. These ones, which are called Kukenthalia borealis, cover large areas. They look like large, transparent cloudberries, and on the photo you can clearly see a ridge between two trawl marks that is carpeted with them. But we know that the diva in the photo below is the starfish Urasterias lincki. You can recognise it from its bright red colour and the white papillae along its arms. The garden also contains cauliflower corals and large bunches of the anemone Liponema multicorne.

Bilde av sjøstjerne på havbunnen. Bak den vokser mange sekkedyr spredt utover bunnen.
The starfish diva! Photo: Mareano / IMR

A dangerous predator stalks the churchyard, frequently making an appearance on our screens. It is one of the large sea spiders, Colessendeis. It has eight legs, and a snout that it uses to suck the innards out of its unfortunate prey. His much smaller cousin is also pictured below, carrying all of its children on its back. 

Bilde av en havedderkopp. Den har tynne, lange bein og en forholdsvis liten kropp.
The sea spider Nymphon stroemi. Photo: Mareano / IMR
Bilde av en havedderkopp. Denne er litt mindre enn arten på det forrige bildet og bærer 'familien' på ryggen.
A slightly smaller “spider cousin”. Photo: Mareano / IMR

After 3-4 days of mapping Kirkegården, it turns out that there aren’t any desert areas here. Once the sediments settle after the video rig has landed, and we look more closely, we see a multitude of creatures of all colours and shapes. These include snow crabs, a fish called the Atlantic poacher, frilly nudibranchs, long-armed brittle stars and egg-shaped sponges. So don’t be fooled by the name of the area, and take a look at the pictures – they are pretty amazing!

Bilde av en stor 'bukkett' med anemoner av arten Liponema multicorne.
A bunch of anemones. Photo: Mareano / IMR
Bilde av en Gersemina.
A soft coral colony named Gersemia. Photo: Mareano / IMR

 

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