Rolling “balls” provide substrate for marine life

09 May, 2024

Unusual round nodules about the size of pétanque balls were spotted on the sea floor during oceanographic expeditions that took place in the northern Red Sea, ahead of construction along the coastline at NEOM.

During the underwater surveys in 2020 and again in 2022, an international collaboration including scientists from OceanX, NEOM and KAUST discovered the “balls” on the sea floor that were supporting a range of sea life, including sponges and corals. The research voyage was on board the expedition megayacht OceanXplorer 1.

“These nodules were an unexpected sight, particularly as we were exploring the deeper parts of the continental margin,” says marine biologist Fabio Marchese, who was involved in the study under the supervision of KAUST’s Francesca Benzoni. “They have previously only been spotted at a depth of 60 meters; these were around 130 meters deep. On OceanXplorer 1, we were lucky to have high-spec submersibles and remotely operated vehicles, meaning we could easily collect samples to analyze.”

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