Collections from Curaçao
During the 2012 field season of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) in Curaçao, Smithsonian scientists collected many specimens with the help of the Curasub. Prospective new species were caught on almost every dive as the scientists explored the biodiversity of the mid- and deep-sea ecosystems.
Sea Toad Specimen from Caribbean
This amazing sea toad, Chaunax sp., has modified pectoral fins it uses to walk along the bottom.
Purple Sea Urchin
This purple urchin Paleopneustes cristatus is seldom seen by itself, and can be found in groups of hundreds. Dr. Dave Pawson, a senior scientist at NMNH who studies deep-sea echinoderms, is testing if the fertilized eggs of this urchin sink or are buoyant, an important question in figuring out this urchin's life cycle. This urchin specimen was collected at around 800 feet during the 2012 field season of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP).
A Baby Moray Eel, or a Really Small Adult?
This is an unidentified moray eel, collected from 650 feet off the coast of Curacao. Researchers don't yet know if this is a young eel, or a small full-grown one. By analyzing this moray's DNA and comparing it to DNA from known morays in the Caribbean, they will determine if this small eel is a juvenile of a known species.
Tusk Shell Hermit Crab
When this tusk shell was brought up from a dive it was a surprise when a hermit crab poked out. The large claw that you see can be pulled in to cover the shell opening.
Little Sea Star
It’s an honor to have something or someone named after you. Dr. David Pawson, Senior Research Scientist and Curator of Echinoderms at NMNH, has several genera and species, living and fossil, named after him. He says this little sea star, Pawsonaster parvus, is by far the prettiest! It is a small pentagonal species, little more than an inch across (hence the species name parvus, from Latin for "small"), orange on top and whitish underneath. It lives in depths of 30-600 meters, and it is known to live from the coast of North Carolina, through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, to Uruguay in South America.
Sea Cucumber in Curaçao
Some sea cucumbers, including this species collected at 830 feet deep off Curacao, host a slender, eel-shaped fish called a pearl fish, which lives in its anus by day and emerges to feed at night. You might not be able to see it now, but...
Pearlfish from a Sea Cucumber
...out it comes! This pearl fish lives inside the sea cucumber's anus by day, and emerges by night to feed. In some cases, no harm is done to the host sea cucumber, but in some species the pearlfish can function as a parasite, causing harm to its host by eating its gonads and other internal organs!