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DIVA stands for: Latitudinal Gradients in  Biodiversity in the deep Atlantic



Project leader: Pedro Martinez Arbizu, Senckenberg-Institute, German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research, Wilhelmshaven


The objective of this project is the biodiversity in abyssal basins of the southeast Atlantic., contributing to the study of the distribution of benthic organisms from pole to pole and to investigate their origin and relationships.


Until now, two expeditions have taken place on board of the German research vessel "Meteor" which led an international team of scientists into the deep sea off the African west coast. 


DIVA-1, carried out in summer 2000 in the Angola Basin, was the pioneering expedition of CeDAMar . Five years later DIVA 2 started in Cape Town, heading to the Cape Basin, revisiting the Angola Basin and finally reaching the Guinea Basin and the equator.


In the course of the investigations the scientists caught a glimpse of a hitherto unknown world. Zoologists from Bochum and Hamburg discovered many new and strange species of peracarid crustaceans and bristle worms among species that were already known. These new species now await descriptions and official names. Genetic analyses will help to understand the relationships between new and already known species. Specialists from the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt were delighted to find two quite unusual gigantic seed shrimps of the genus Gigantocypris. While seed shrimps are common in many parts of the ocean, they grow no larger than 2-3 mm, but these two individuals reached nearly 3 cm and, owing to their orange-red colour, looked rather like ordinary cherry tomatoes.


Meiofauna specialists, too, discovered an unexpected giant among their animals. A copepod, normally about 2 mm long, reached an impressive length of 2 cm.


How the species richness in the deep sea develops, and why gigantism is such a relatively frequent phenomenon in the deep sea we can only guess. The knowledge gained by the scientists during this expedition will help a great deal to answer these questions. 


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