Fiji/Lau Expedition May 15–June 3, 2005

Please visit the Ridge 2000 website for additional information

This expedition has been made possible by National Science Foundation grants to Dr. Robert Vrijenhoek (NSF OCE-0241613) and Dr. Cindy Van Dover (NSF OCE-0350554)

Fiji/Lau Expedition
Cruise dates: May 15, 2005 to June 3, 2005
Cruise location: Lau Basin and North Fiji Basin
Chief scientist: Robert Vrijenhoek, MBARI, Molecular Ecology Lab 
Ship: R/V Melville
Vehicle: ROV Jason II

  • Purpose: 

The purpose of the expedition is to collect vent-endemic animals and associated microbes from western Pacific hydrothermal habitats. Our goal is to see how these organisms are related to similar vent organisms in the eastern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

largemap.jpg (23105 bytes)

Map of the Pacific Ocean centered on Fiji. The red square is expanded below to show some known hydrothermal vents in this region.

  • Plan: 

Dives are planned with the ROV Jason II at localities in the North Fiji Basin and in the Lau Basin. The ship R/V Melville will depart from Suva, Lau on May 15, 2005 and transit for one day to Lau Basin sites that have been targeted by a previous leg conducted by geologist Meg Tivey and colleagues. The ship will then progress eastward to sites in the North Fiji Basin.

The following are brief summaries of the major research projects: 

Chief Scientist Robert Vrijenhoek and his team from MBARI are collecting samples to compare their DNA with similar vent organisms previously collected in the Eastern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Joe Jones is interested in phylogenetic relationships of deep-sea mussels and squat lobsters. Rob Young studies deep-sea tube worms and factors that affect their dispersal. Shannon Johnson studies deep-sea limpets and snails. This group of scientists is also interested in locating barriers to gene flow among the different species occupying these far-flung vent habitats. 

Cindy Lee Van Dover and her team from The College of William and Mary are conducting quantitative studies on communities associated with deep-sea vent mussel beds. They are comparing these organisms with ones previously found along the East Pacific Rise, Mid Atlantic Ridge and various cold seeps. Kristi Ericson, Lizzie Blake, Carol Logan, Taylor Heyl and Josh Osterberg provide Cindy with an outstanding support team of young scientists.

Karen Jacobsen is an outstanding bio-illustrator. She creates amazing watercolor images of the beautiful and varied organisms. 

Greg Rouse from the South Australian Museum is hoping to find new forms of segmented worms that live on or near the vents. This extremely diverse phylum has species that range from the microscopic, to species a meter or more in length. Greg will learn more about Vestimentiferan worms and hopefully find new, never before seen forms of annelids. Working along side Greg is Fredrik Pleijel, a professor from Göteborg University, who is a world renowned expert on worms and specializes in worm morphology and anatomy.  Fred  hopes to find Hesionid worms in these deep-sea hydrothermal vents. 

Anders Warén of the Swedish Natural History Museum is looking for gastropods. Anders has studied and classified snails and slugs from 12 major sites around the world. He is looking specifically for the genus Leptogyra and other strange gastropods. 

Victoria Orphan of California Institute of Technology is looking at how bacteria and members of the Kingdom Archaea, influence the geo-chemical cycles at deep-sea vents. Archaea are single celled microbes that look like bacteria but are not. Bacteria and Archaea fix carbon from carbon dioxide and methane, and sulfur from sulfides into compounds that they can use to metabolize and grow. In turn, these simple life forms become the foundation for the food webs in this most unusual biological community. 

Shana Goffredi of California Institute of Technology is studying the symbiotic relationships between bacteria and the animals that inhabit these deep-sea vent communities. Bacteria produce food for a variety of snails, mussels, anemones, worms and other deep-sea vent animals. In return, the animals provide a hospitable groove, gill, surface or opening for the bacteria to nestle into and spend its simple yet important existence. The animals provide a home and make available a variety of critical compounds to the bacteria. In return, the bacteria provide the animals with energy and essential nutrients for life. Shana is attempting to identify the biochemical pathways that are involved in this mutually satisfying relationship.

Michel Segonzac from IFREMER, the French oceanography institute, is studying the taxonomy and ecology of shrimp and other deep-sea organisms. Michel has collected from sites all over the globe. If a question arises about names or classification, Michel is the person to go to. 

  • Cruise History and Background: 

The present expedition will expand on the biogeographic and evolutionary genetic studies previously conducted by this team of scientists (see references below). Please also visit the Easter Microplate Cruise Expedition for more information on the history and background of this cruise.


Van Dover CL, German CR, Speer KG, Parson LM, Vrijenhoek RC (2002) Evolution and biogeography of deep-sea vent and seep invertebrates. Science 295: 1253-1257. 
[Abstract]  [Article]

Smith PJ, McVeagh SM, Won YJ, Vrijenhoek RC (2004) Genetic heterogeneity among New Zealand species of hydrothermal vent mussels (Mytilidae: Bathymodiolus). Marine Biology 144: 537-545. [Abstract & Article]  

Warén A, Bengtson S, Goffredi SK, Van Dover CL (2003) A hot-vent gastropod with iron sulfide dermal sclerites. Science 302: 1007.  [Article]

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