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The Red Sea is a largely homogeneous water column beyond the top 300 m, unique in exhibiting warm bottom water (~21.5 °C) at depths down to ~2900 m. The unusual conditions coupled with barriers to colonization by primary deep-sea species has resulted in an impoverished but distinct deep fauna. This study presents a rare investigation of the deep Red Sea. The bigeye hound shark Iago omanensis is a known deep-sea shark in the Red Sea. However, its full depth distribution has never been conclusively studied. Here, we confirm with videographic evidence the presence of I. omanensis at depths to 2522 m in the Red Sea, along with observations of other deep-sea species. Iago omanensis was the only species of scavenging fish observed and only in moderate numbers. The additional six species were mostly crustacea in low abundance. The lack of scavenging species present in the deep Red Sea is likely explained by the low productivity of the overlying surface waters and unusually warm water temperature resulting in low energetic input but high metabolic demands in deep communities.
High definition video from a towed camera system was used to describe the deep-sea benthic habitats within an elongate depression located at the western margin of Rockall Bank in the Hatton–Rockall Basin. At depths greater than 1190 m, an extensive area (10 km long by 1.5 km wide) of what appeared to be reduced sediments, bacterial mats and flocculent matter indicated possible cold-seep habitat. Plumes of sediment-rich fluid were observed alongside raised elongate features that gave topographic relief to the otherwise flat seafloor. In the deepest section of the depression (1215 m) dense flocculent matter was observed suspended in the water column, in places obscuring the seabed. Away from the bacterial mats, the habitat changed rapidly to sediments dominated by tube-dwelling polychaete worms and then to deep-sea sedimentary habitats more typical for the water depth (sponges and burrowing megafauna in areas of gentle slopes, and coral gardens on steeper slopes).
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