The Hannibal Bank Seamount, 20 km west of Coiba Island, Panama, is an ideal natural laboratory to explore the processes that determine both bottom and water-column ecological hotspots. Internationally recognized for its abundant fish populations, this huge undersea mountain is a popular destination for sports fishermen; yet like most seamounts, the mechanisms that produce its biological richness are poorly known.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s goal of this expedition was to uncover how ecological patterns in bottom faunal zonation, water-column fish aggregation, and elevated biodiversity are determined. By collecting samples, extracting DNA to identify species, and researching how the location of marine life corresponds to environmental factors such as temperature, salinity, and currents, biologists now better understand the processes that make this underwater mountain habitat so unique. By sharing their findings with local and regional stakeholders, resource managers will have access to the information they need to work together to develop a sound management plan for this rich and diverse ecosystem.

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