credit: WHOI

Cruise title: Corals and Sponges as Biological Hotspots of Reactive Oxygen Species in the Mesophotic to Deep Sea

Lead PIs: Colleen Hansel, Santiago Herrera, Ann Tarrant, Scott Wankel

Location: Puerto Rico

Dates: 17 April 2023


Corals and sponges play foundational roles in benthic ecosystems from shallow to deep-sea environments by generating three-dimensional habitats for invertebrate and fish communities. Recent discoveries that these organisms produce extracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) provide compelling evidence that these molecules may play essential roles in coral health and ecological interactions. In shallow corals, hydrogen peroxide production is associated with feeding, responses to physical stimuli, and defense against pathogens. The development of a deep-sea submersible sensor for measuring ROS by the PI’s team led to the discovery that, like shallow corals, deep-sea corals produce substantial amounts of the ROS superoxide. Differences in ROS production among and within taxa may derive from intrinsic factors (evolutionary history, functional traits) and environmental responses (food availability, grazer activity, microbial interactions). The light, thermal, and nutrient gradients typifying the photic-to-aphotic transition likely underpin and regulate ROS production to meet shifting physiological and ecological needs. Yet, ROS production’s mechanisms, role, and impacts in deepwater corals are unknown. This cruise will evaluate ROS production by mesophotic and deep-sea corals and its role in mediating ecological interactions.

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