In close collaboration with Project Deep Ocean Australia & the Queensland Museum (Brisbane, Australia)

An exceptional sessile invertebrate fauna was discovered in the 1970s on the Norfolk Ridge in the SW Pacific. This fauna is remarkable because it contains populations of animals that were previously thought to be extinct but have persisted almost unchanged on the deep reef slopes since the late Mesozoic (>65 MYA).
Our own expeditions to the Coral Sea in Australia in the mid-1990s discovered components of this deep-water fauna around Osprey- and Shark Reefs, but detailed exploration was not possible at that time. In this project we now aim to deploy a scientific remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to investigate in detail the biodiversity of Mesozoic relict faunas down to a depth of about 1000 m around Osprey-, Shark-, Bougainville-, and Holmes Reefs on the Queensland Plateau (Coral Sea, Australia). These remnant relict faunas ('living fossils') are of great interest to the biodiversity and geobiological sciences as they provide a window into past environments.

We have now capitalized on the unique opportunity provided by the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) "Cherokee", operated by the marum in Germany and deployed the Cherokee from the Australian vessel "PMG Pride" in December 2009 in the Coral Sea.

The outcomes of this project will provide substantial new knowledge on a completely overlooked and unique marine biodiversity and new genetic resources to promote a further understanding of ecology, (molecular) diversity, phylogeography, phylogeny, and trends in evolution of these 'living fossils' and conservation and managment of their environments in the unique Coral Sea area.

Supported by