Погружения исследователей

В течение 1983 года группа биологов из Национального музея естественной истории при Смитсоновском институте и фирмы Harbor Branch Foundation, Inc. (Форт-Пирс, шт. Флорида) изучала крупные скопления иглокожих, населяющих подводную впадину у Багамских островов на глубинах от 100 до 800 м. Открытие такого местообитания явилось, по словам Дж. Миллера, руководителя этих работ, «неожиданным подарком судьбы». Образцы, поднятые там со дна другими исследовательскими группами, побудили Миллера и его коллег изучить заинтриговавшую их зону с помощью батискафа. При первом же погружении, говорит Миллер, его поразило обилие и разнообразие иглокожих. Из экспедиции они вернулись с экземплярами 60 видов, многие из которых прежде считались редкими.

Во время последующих погружений исследователи изучали поведение глубоководных иглокожих и обнаружили интересные его особенности. В частности, на мелководье офиуры довольно проворно удирают от опасности по дну, но никогда не плавают. В противоположность этому глубоководные офиуры, если их потревожить, отталкиваются от дна и поднимаются в толщу воды, совершая энергичные волнообразные движения «руками». Возможно, считает Миллер, такое поведение бывает им нужно, когда обрушивается осадочный материал на крутых склонах впадины, где они живут.

Некоторые морские лилии, относящиеся к группе стебельчатых, также оказались подвижными. Раньше считалось, что эти животные остаются прикрепленными к одной и той же точке дна на протяжении всей взрослой стадии жизненного цикла, однако когда сотрудники Миллера отделяли их от субстрата, они расползались по морскому дну, цепляясь перистыми «руками» и подтягиваясь с их помощью вперед. Можно думать, что обитающие у Багамских островов морские лилии способны и сами покидать насиженные места и передвигаться по дну в поисках более богатых пищей участков.

В отличие от своих живущих на мелководье сородичей, которые, когда их вспугнут, обычно пытаются скрыться, иглокожие, населяющие изученное Миллером место, по-видимому, лишены защитных поведенческих реакций. Причина этого, возможно, в том, что по сравнению с мелководьем в глубоководных багамских местообитаниях им грозит меньше опасностей.



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