Life at the Entrance to the Arctic Ocean

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The Chukchi Borderlands is located some 600 miles north of the Bering Strait, 800 miles south of the North Pole at the entrance to the Arctic Ocean.  Cold and fresh waters from the Pacific Ocean merges with the warm and salty Atlantic waters in this area of deep-sea plateaus and complex topography.  Much of the life that exists within these waters is unknown and researchers are working to better understand this biological community.    

This map of the Arctic Ocean highlights both the Chukchi Sea and the study region for this expedition, the Chukchi Borderlands. Wikipedia, edited by Caitlin Bailey, NOAA
This map of the Arctic Ocean highlights both the Chukchi Sea and the study region for this expedition, the Chukchi Borderlands. Wikipedia, edited by Caitlin Bailey, NOAA

Between July 2 and August 10, 2016, researchers onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy sailed to Arctic’s Chukchi Borderlands to learn more about life deep within the oceans.

Dumbo Octopus

Named after the character in the Disney film about a flying elephant, this octopus was found 900 feet below the surface.  Belonging to the Cirrata suborder, these finned deep-sea octopods use fins as their primary means of locomotion instead of jet propulsion like most octopus.

Dumbo octopus. Source: NOAA.
Dumbo octopus taken at 900 feet below sea level. Source: NOAA.

Jellies of the Arctic

Jellyfish and ctenophores in the Arctic come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This jellyfish, Benthocodon hyalinus, is found in the water column throughout the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica.

Benthocodon hyalinus. Photo: Caitlin Bailey, GFOE, NOAA
Benthocodon hyalinus. Photo: Caitlin Bailey, GFOE, NOAA

Aulacoctena sp. is a large softball-sized cydippid ctenophore from the deep waters of the Arctic Ocean. Alaska, Beaufort Sea, North of Point Barrow.  As with other comb jellies, Aulacoctena do not have stinging cells unlike jellyfish.

Aulacoctena sp. Photo: Kevin Raskoff, NOAA.
Aulacoctena sp. Photo: Kevin Raskoff, NOAA.

Arctic Zooplankton

Arctic zooplankton are the smallest animals in the Arctic and are an important link in the Arctic food web between primary producers and upper trophic levels like sea birds, fish, and whales.

More: Hidden Ocean 2016: Chukchi Borderlands expedition


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