Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos

The Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos project has carried out over 5,000 operations at sea since 1999 off major tropical islands. We are proud to have one of the most ambitious biological exploration programmes in these environments. All aboard!

The Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos project is a windfall. Its existence is a complete fluke! In 1976, the Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique d'Outre-Mer (ORSTOM) - now the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) - decided to assign a research trawler, le Vauban, to its centre in Noumea, New Caledonia. On its way from Marseilles, the ship made a detour to the Philippines for a ten-day oceanographic campaign. It was looking for a crustacean, Neoglyphea inopinata, the last representative of an extinct genus discovered in the area in 1908. On 22 March 1976, le Vauban came across this living treasure and proceeded to collect samples from all zoological groups. These specimens were then studied by our experts and many others This was the birth of the Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos programme.

Since then, dredging (sweeping the seabed) and trawling (netting at sea) operations have never stopped around large tropical islands. The project reached its golden age with the launch of the research vessel Alis in 1986 in New Caledonia.  From 1992 onwards, it spread to the archipelagos of the South Pacific: Vanuatu, Fiji, Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, Marquises. From 2000 onwards, it was the turn of the large archipelagos of Melanesia - Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea. Partnerships were formed with other scientific teams to explore Taiwan, the Philippines, Madagascar and Mozambique using local vessels. Exploration of the Caribbean began in 2014.

More than two hundred scientists from all over the world are now working on the specimens collected. This material is of exceptional quality and very diverse. Hundreds of articles have been published in the volumes of the eponymous Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos series. As for the systematics of marine organisms, it has leaped forward. This is a programme that combines adventure, knowledge, progress and sharing!

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