Summits of underwater mountains are prime real estate for fish

Seamounts in Papua New Guinea have nearly twice the biodiversity as nearby shallow reefs

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School of Goldband Fusilier fish from Papua New Guinea

Brocken Inaglory on Wikimedia Commons.

Imagine yourself underwater with hundreds of fish schooling and swirling around you. What does that place look like?

Chances are, you imagined yourself on a tropical coral reef, the well-known, fish-friendly habitat often found in movies and vacation daydreams.

Think instead of being high atop an underwater mountain called a seamount. Despite their small habitat area and isolation from land, it turns out seamounts can host high numbers and diversity of fish species compared to nearby reefs, according to a recent study in Papua New Guinea published in the journal Coral Reefs. The researchers found that submerged pinnacles had 3.7 times the average fish abundance and nearly twice the biodiversity as nearby shallow reefs. This is a particularly important finding as coral reefs near the shores are vulnerable to pollution, fishing, and other ecological problems.

So the next time you think of schooling fish, imagine them atop an underwater mountain oasis!