Discovering the unknown: Experimental laboratory studies in deep-sea organisms

Olaf.Heilmayer [ at ]


Deep-sea biology has traditionally been rather descriptive and dependent on the availability of organisms obtained by means of trawls or grabs. Only in recent years the increased use of underwater video systems and ROVs has allowed in situ studies of deep-sea organisms and communities in their environment. Here, we advocate that the study of deep-sea organisms under controlled lab conditions (monitored experimental parameters) is still essential to elucidate ecological and physiological life history adaptations of deep-sea organisms to their environment, complementing field observations. We present an infrastructure for work on living deep-sea organisms under controlled lab conditions of pressure and temperature available at the National Oceanography Centre. The IPOCAMP() (Incubateur Pressurisé pour lObservation et la Culture dAnimaux Marins Profonds), originally designed at the University Pierre et Marie Curie, allows the study of organisms under deep-sea conditions in the laboratory, including controlled conditions of temperature and pressure, in a closed seawater circulation system. The pressure vessel (size: 20x60cm) can contain several cages of limited size that contain ventilation holes and are positioned in the systems water flow. Using an endoscope system the behaviour of organisms and their physiological activity (i.e. oxygen, heart beat sensors) during the experiment can be recorded. The study of living deep-sea organisms in the lab is essential if we are to understand life history adaptations to an environment that covers two thirds of our planet, as well as the challenges to life in the deep in light of increased exploitation and climate change. It is astonishing how little technology to study living deep-sea organisms under controlled lab conditions is currently available and the technology involved needs substantial financial support for advancement. In order to mobilize the scientific capacities available, including funding to advance this emerging technology, we will increasingly need to rely upon joint international cooperation and funding support

Item Type
Conference (Poster)
Publication Status
Event Details
4th CBP Conference, Maasai Mara, Kenya..
Eprint ID
Cite as
Thatje, S. , Shillito, B. , Heilmayer, O. , Hauton, C. , Osseforth, C. , Mestre, N. , Billett, D. and Tyler, P. (2008): Discovering the unknown: Experimental laboratory studies in deep-sea organisms , 4th CBP Conference, Maasai Mara, Kenya. .

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