We’ve all been there- swimming along, enjoying ourselves, when all of a sudden things begin to tangle around our feet. Whether you’re in a familiar body of water or a new one, this sensation is something few of us enjoy! The little brushes of life against your feet when you swim may be a little school of fish swimming by, ever curious about what you’re doing, or it may be a bit of sea life growing up out of the sea floor.
Benthos is a noun that means the flora and fauna found in the bottom portion or sediments of a sea, lake, or other body of water. Benthos comes from a late 19th century Greek word meaning ‘the depth of the sea.’ The word benthos is commonly used in ecology and to describe marine environments in scientific terms.
Scuba divers, snorkelers, swimmers, and others find themselves in contact with benthos every time they step in water that isn’t a pool. The sediment layers that make up the seabed, the lake bed, and the foundations of other bodies of water are all unique and therefore support a variety of diverse life forms. Flora and fauna thrive in places like the Mediterranean, the Great Barrier Reef, and in shallow and abundant rivers and streams.
Diving deeper, staff from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa used bait to attract and film sea creatures living at various depths off the coast of New Zealand. Food is scarce at the bottom of the sea and the video shows the interaction of various sea forms including a hagfish and a seal shark.