Characterization of Deep-Sea Octopod Habitat from ROV Videos in the Western North Atlantic

Abigail Pratt, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Biology, Lafayette, LA, United States, Scott France, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA, United States and Michael Vecchione, NOAA NMFS National Systematics Lab, DC, United States
Understanding habitat choice of organisms is a crucial part in understanding their life history. Deep-sea incirrate octopods are understudied due in part to the difficult nature of collecting and observing benthic organisms in the deep sea. Habitat characterization would give scientists valuable information about their biology and feeding ecology, as well as give more information when planning field studies or collection trips. The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) is a multi-faceted hierarchical classification method created as a standardized way to classify habitats across regions. CMECS utilizes four components, Biotic, Substrate, Water Column, and Geoform, to describe various habitats. In this study, I used CMECS to investigate habitat choice of the deep-sea incirrate octopods found in Okeanos Explorer ROV videos taken in the Western North Atlantic. Information for the biotic and substrate components were observed directly from the video, water column categories were determined from CTD data, and the geoform structure of the dive locations were taken from NOAA and Google Earth. Current results point towards the Substrate Component being the most correlated with species. The biotic component and co-occurring species seem to be a result of the other components and not necessarily a result of a relationship with the octopods. Although a small sample size for most species, this study provides a valuable baseline for future habitat or life history research. Further analysis and a larger sample size are needed to determine true habitat choice of these deep-sea species.