Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006) Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006)
Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006)
Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006)
Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006) Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006) Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOC 2006)
Deep-sea grenadier fish, Nezumia sp. (© NOCS 2006)
 

Mud, mud, glorious mud...A deep-sea researcher enjoying a deep-sea mud face-pack!

In contrast to other interesting and exciting deep-water habitats, deep-sea mud may seem a little “dull”. Plain, deep-sea mud is nevertheless the dominant habitat in the waters off the UK; indeed it is the dominant habitat on this planet. Despite its apparently featureless nature, recent research has shown that deep-sea mud supports a previously unexpected wealth of biological diversity. It is quite possible that the majority of animal species on this planet live in deep-sea mud. Of the tens of millions of animal species that probably live on Earth today, it is likely that over 75 per cent of them will be found on the deep-sea floor – although to date we are only aware of a tiny fraction of this diversity.

What is mud?

Deep-sea sediments are primarily composed of clays or materials produced by living organisms, depending upon the numbers of animals in the overlying waters. Abyssal clay covers most of the deep-ocean floor. It accumulates very slowly (1mm per 1,000 years), and it is mostly made up of clay-sized particles from the continents, carried by wind or currents. Materials derived from the remains of living organisms accumulate in different thicknesses and distributions. In very deep waters the sediment blanket may be thousands of metres thick. The study of these thick layers of deep-sea mud is often used to answer questions about climate change, as these sedimentary layers preserve a unique record of past change.

Our database has a large selection of images of muddy sediments, here are two examples of the typical UK deep-sea mud environment:

 A typical deep-sea mud habitat




This photograph (left) from the mouth of the Faroe-Shetland Channel, shows level-bottom “typical deep-sea” soft sediment habitat. In these habitats larger fauna (megabenthos) is relatively sparse, although their burrows, tracks and feeding marks (star shapes) are abundant.


The mud diapir province



This photograph (right) shows that even in amongst typical deep-sea mud habitats there can be some variation. It is from the mud diaper province (see here for more information about diapirs) at the mouth of the Faroe-Shetland Channel, and shows the highly sculptured mud blocks. The diapirs were surveyed in 1999 and 2000 and did not reveal any evidence of 'exotic' seabed communities (e.g. such as would be found associated with active mud volcanoes), however such communities are known to exist elsewhere in the Norwegian Basin (the Hakon Mosby Mud Volcano).

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