Senckenberg Research

Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life



The acronym CeDAMar, meaning „Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life“, stands for an ambitious international research programme which is designed to reveal the secrets of a largely unexplored habitat, the seafloor of the abyssal plains of the world’s oceans.

These basins are, on average, about 4,500 to 5,500 m deep, often several hundreds of kilometres away from land, difficult to reach and therefore very costly to investigate. The coordination of international research teams is therefore crucial to use the limited resources, especially shiptime which is always in short supply, in an efficient manner.

The main questions that we aim to answer are those of the species richness in the deep sea, which may reach that of tropical rain forests; the colonisation history of deep-sea basins and the resulting differences between them; and the evolution of deep-sea species. All of these questions are very difficult to address if the total sampled area equals a few football pitches compared to about half of the earth’s surface which is covered by deep sea.

© Senckenberg - Armin Rose

© Senckenberg - Armin Rose (Polarstern)

© Senckenberg - Armin Rose

CeDAMar will run for ten years, ending in 2010. At that time, a final report will have to be delivered to the overarching project CoML (Census of Marine Life). One of the goals of CeDAMar is the description of 500 new species, and well over 100 descriptions are published already or have been submitted for publication. Morphological methods are complemented by moleculr genetics.

Study areas are mainly focused in the basins of the Atlantic Ocean, eventually spanning its entire length from pole o pole; the projects DIVA, BIOZAIRE, and ANDEEP have covered the southeast Atlantic ocean and adjacent high Antarctic parts of the Southern Ocean, while KAPLAN and NODINAUT deal with the deep sea of the central Pacific. CROZEX investigates the deep sea surrounding the sub-Antarctic Crozet Isles (Indian Ocean), and basins of the Mediterranean Sea, uniquely characterised by warm water, will be sampled from 2006 on by members of the new project LEVAR (see map). FIS scientists are involved in the projects DIVA, LEVAR, and ANDEEP.

The DZMB (German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research) is managing the sample processing, tracking and archiving for the projects DIVA and ANDEEP, ensuring that the precious material from these expeditions can be traced back at all times and is readily available to specialists worldwide.

Study areas CeDAMar