Particles are the major vector for the transfer of carbon from the upper ocean to the deep sea. However, little is known about their abundance, composition and role at depths greater than 2000 m. We present the first number-size spectrum of bathy-and abyssopelagic particles to a depth of 5500 m based on surveys performed with a custom-made holographic microscope. The particle spectrum was unusual in that particles of several millimetres in length were almost 100 times more abundant than expected from the number spectrum of smaller particles, thereby meeting the definition of "dragon kings." Marine snow particles overwhelmingly contributed to the total particle volume (95-98%). Approximately 1/3 of the particles in the dragon-king size domain contained large amounts of transparent exopolymers with little ballast, which likely either make them neutrally buoyant or cause them to sink slowly. Dragon-king particles thus provide large volumes of unique microenvironments that may help to explain discrepancies in deep-sea biogeochemical budgets.
Original Publication Citation
Bochdansky, A. B., Clouse, M. A., & Herndl, G. J. (2016). Dragon kings of the deep sea: Marine particles deviate markedly from the common number-size spectrum. Scientific Reports, 6, 1-7. doi: 10.1038/srep22633
Bochdansky, Alexander B.; Clouse, Melissa A.; and Herndl, Gerhard J., "Dragon Kings of the Deep Sea: Marine Particles Deviate Markedly From the Common Number-Size Spectrum" (2016). OEAS Faculty Publications. 163.