Into the Twilight Zone

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Science  03 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6328, pp. 900-904
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6328.900

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A teenaged diving accident and crippling brush with the bends propelled ichthyologist Richard Pyle into the world of technical diving, where he emerged as a pioneering rebreather diver, using the technology to reach greater and greater depths. Pyle has carved out a niche as an explorer of the still-mysterious, dimly lit coral habitat that thrives from about 30 to 150 meters below the surface, in what he calls the Twilight Zone. Shallow reefs, with their brightly colored hard corals and fish, get most of the attention. But studies of deeper habitats, which contain more soft corals and also teem with diverse invertebrates and fish, have surged lately. Pyle was one of the first to call attention to such mesophotic coral ecosystems, as they're called—and he's still diving there, convinced that thousands of additional species remain to be discovered.

  • * aboard the Hi'ialakai near Kure Atoll