, Volume 153, Issue 5, pp 825-841
Date: 23 Nov 2007

Persistent near-bottom aggregations of mesopelagic animals along the North Carolina and Virginia continental slopes

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Abstract

Submersible observations during four missions over the North Carolina and Virginia continental slopes (184–900 m) documented the occurrence of large aggregations of mesopelagic fishes and macronektonic invertebrates near or on the bottom. Aggregated mesopelagics formed a layer up to tens of meters deep positioned from a few centimeters to 20 m, usually <10 m, above the substrate. Aggregations were numerically dominated by microvores, notably the myctophid fish Ceratoscopelus maderensis and the penaeid shrimp Sergestes arcticus. Consistently present but in relatively lower numbers, were mesopelagic predators, including the paralepidids Notolepis rissoi and Lestidium atlanticum, the eel Nemichthys scolopaceus, the stomiid fishes Chauliodus sloani and Stomias boa ferox, and squids Illex spp. Near-bottom aggregations do not appear to be an artifact due to attraction to the submersible. Based on submersible observations in three areas in 4 years spanning a decade, near-bottom aggregations of midwater organisms appear to be a geographically widespread and persistent phenomenon along the continental slope of the southeastern US Aggregations may exploit areas of enhanced food resources at the bottom.

Communicated by P.W. Sammarco.