Strange Creatures of the Murky Depths!

My first research cruise of the summer has come to an end and it feels great to stretch my legs on land! While the R/V Norseman II had awesome accommodations, it’s still only 110 ft long, so I started to go a little stir crazy at the end of 2 weeks.

the Norseman II in Nome, AK

My team’s main objective on board was to collect as many clams as possible from the Chukchi Sea, and I think we met that goal! Our modified trawl net did its job and we had over 30 successful trawls. Since clams live on top of the seafloor or buried in seafloor sediments, we also hauled a ton of mud on board in our net. Before we could sort out catch, we sieved the contents to remove the mud.

Overall, we sorted, identified, and bagged over 5,000 individual clams!

the crew bringing our trawl net on board
ALL OF THE CLAMS! sorting, IDing, and bagging clams!

While we were only collecting the clams, our net captured any critters that live on (epifauna) or in (infauna) the seafloor sediments. As a lover of marine invertebrates, I was super excited to see the strange new creatures we hauled on deck! Many of our trawls were full of hundreds of sand dollars to thousands of brittle stars, which are aptly named and littered their broken leg bits over everythings! I recognized many invert species from my work in the Beaufort Sea, though the individuals from the Chukchi seem to be quite a bit larger.

ALL OF THE INVERTS! (top row: Clinocardium bivalve, Synidotea amphipod, Crossaster seastar; middle row: Alcyonidium gelatinosum hydrozoan, sand dollar, Eucratea loricata bryozoan; bottom row: Gorgoncephalus basket star, Anonyx amphipod, crab)

My favorite critters we saw were basket stars (Gorgoncephalus arcticus), Serripes clams with their distinctive zigzag shell (Serripes groenlandicus), and a baby octopus!


If invertebrates aren’t your thing, we also saw bearded seals, fin and humpback whales, and TONS AND TONS of walruses!

Large Serripes clam– notice the reddish zigzags on the shell