An association between a cusk eel (Bassozetus sp.) and a black coral (Schizopathes sp.) in the deep western Indian Ocean

  • Andrew R. Gates
  • Kirsty J. Morris
  • Daniel O. B. Jones
  • Kenneth J. Sulak
Short Communication

DOI: 10.1007/s12526-016-0516-z

Cite this article as:
Gates, A.R., Morris, K.J., Jones, D.O.B. et al. Mar Biodiv (2016). doi:10.1007/s12526-016-0516-z


Detailed observations in the deep sea can reveal previously unknown behaviour, species interactions and fine-scale habitat heterogeneity. Here, the first in situ images of the black coral Schizopathes sp. (Anthozoa: Antipatharia) in the deep western Indian Ocean have been obtained from remotely operated vehicle video footage and time-lapse photography. In these images, there appears to be an association with the cusk eel Bassozetus (Family: Ophidiidae). In the primary observation, chance encounters revealed the fish interacted with the anitpatharian on multiple occasions over several days. Subsequent time-lapse camera footage showed the fish remained almost exclusively underneath the antipatharian for the duration of a 30-h deployment. Excursions from the cover of the antipatharian were for less than 2 min. The primary observation is supported by two similar encounters in the same region. Observed reduction in the tail-beat frequency of the fish under the antipatharian suggests reduced energy requirements for the ophidiid in this position. The observations demonstrate the role that even individual coral colonies play as a source of three-dimensional structure, providing habitat heterogeneity in the deep sea.


Antipatharia SERPENT Project Energy conservation Ophidiidae Tail-beat frequency Time-lapse photography 

Supplementary material

Supplementary Material: Video 1

(MTS 1245270 kb)

Supplementary Material: Video 2

(MTS 134070 kb)

Supplementary Material: Video 3

(MPG 867198 kb)

Supplementary Material: Video 4

(MTS 243300 kb)

Supplementary Material: Video 5

(MTS 440070 kb)

Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew R. Gates
    • 1
  • Kirsty J. Morris
    • 1
  • Daniel O. B. Jones
    • 1
  • Kenneth J. Sulak
    • 2
  1. 1.National Oceanography CentreUniversity of Southampton Waterfront CampusSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Wetland and Aquatic Research CenterU.S. Geological SurveyGainsvilleUSA

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