In 2015, a team of scientists led by the Charles Darwin Research Station and the University of Rhode Island aboard E/V Nautilus made a surprising discovery while exploring the seafloor northwest of the Galapagos Islands. Groups of skate egg cases were observed near hydrothermal vents emitting volcanically-heated fluids!
Researchers believe the warmer water helps to incubate and speed development of the embryos--the first time this behavior has been observed in marine animals. The Bathyraja spinosissima, commonly known as Pacific white skate, is a relative of sharks and rays.
Analyzing video surveys and specimens collected using ROV Hercules, the researchers have just published their findings in Scientific Reports.
The team found over 100 palm-sized skate egg cases among volcanic lava beds, and were able to collect several with ROV Hercules' robotic arm. DNA analysis revealed the distinctive horned cases belonged to the skate species Bathyraja spinosissima, commonly known as the Pacific white skate.
Analyzing video surveys taken by ROVs Hercules and Argus, the research team also determined that most egg cases were placed closest to "black smoker" chimneys spewing superheated chemical fluids--one of the hottest types of seafloor vents. As one of the deepest living skate species, this species is rarely seen but has been documented from the Galapagos Islands to the Pacific Northwest.
Learn more about these eggs-cellent new findings from the research team led by Pelayo Salinas-de-León, Brennan Phillips, David Ebert, Mahmood Shivji, Florencia Cerutti-Pereyra, Cassandra Ruck, Charles R. Fisher and Leigh Marsh.
Learn more about the 2015 Nautilus Galapagos Islands Expedition.
The E/V Nautilus will spend several weeks exploring the Galapagos Rift region. The Galápagos Islands have been instrumental in the establishment of the biological theory of evolution, gaining insights to our knowledge of the chemistry of the Earth’s interior, and understanding the plate tectonic evolution of the eastern Pacific seafloor. In 1835 Charles Darwin visited the islands aboard the HMS Beagle and made fundamental biological and geological observations in the area.