Two new photo identification guides for deep-sea corals and sponges are now available to the public from NCCOS. The new guides, which show many animals alive in their habitat for the first time, cover species from the Southeast United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Caribbean:
- Alcyonacean octocorals of the Pinnacle Trend: A photo-identification guide, released September 2020.
- Photographic catalog of deep-sea corals collected from the U.S. West Atlantic margin by NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer in years 2017–2019, released March 2020.
The guides combine light microscope and scanning electron microscope images with high-resolution in-situ images taken by remotely operated underwater vehicles. The publications photographically correlate collected specimens to in-situ observations and enhance the scientific value of deep-sea exploration. They also illustrate the remarkable diversity of deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast U.S. continental margin, and document potential new discoveries.
The identification and systematics of many of the taxa featured in the guides are essential for the valuation and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.
The following video shows some of the deep-sea corals observed during the 2018 and 2019 research cruises (In order of appearance, Iridogorgia mangispiralis [Gulf of Mexico, 2018], Paragorgia sp. [Southeast U.S., 2019], and Lophelia pertusa [Gulf of Mexico, 2018]):