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Friday, December 13, 2019

Reality vs. Fiction: Animals at Depth

It is often said that we know more about space than we do our own oceans. I find that statement to be so true every time I do research for the Oceania novels. The gaps in current knowledge of marine science are vast but are being filled with every new dive to the deep. In Shark Station, I took more liberties than I had with the previous Oceania novels due to these gaps in knowledge. I’ve discussed some of the reasons before in the author’s note of the novel and in previous blog posts. However, I want to highlight the differences between reality and fiction in Shark Station for animals at depth in this post.

For Shark Station, it is true that I wanted to feature more sharks than in previous novels and to do that, I took advantage of the lack of knowledge of the sea creatures in the Sirena Deep. Unlike Challenger Deep, there’s less known about the Sirena Deep and if you want, you can read more about it from my research blog post for this novel (click here to read it). In Shark Station, you read about shortfin makos, blue sharks, great white sharks, goblin sharks, and frilled sharks. Only the shortfin mako, blue sharks, and great white sharks are featured at depths already documented by science in the book. The goblin shark and frilled shark that Allie encounters are both featured at depths far deeper than they have so far been documented. Frilled sharks only dive to 1,570m (5,150.9ft), which is almost half the depth they are featured at in Shark Station. The goblin shark has been found as deep as 1,300m (4,265.1ft), which is nearly a fourth of the depth I placed them at. Both of these sharks are still mostly a mystery to science and it is possible that in the future they may be observed at lower depths than once thought possible.

Physeter macrocephalus, or more commonly known as the sperm whale, was encountered by Allie and her station mates at a much lower depth than they have ever been recorded. If you reference my earlier blog post—SeaCreatures Part 1 – Sunlit Marine Life—from Allie’s Return, you’ll know that sperm whales typically dive down about 1,000m (3,280ft). In Shark Station, they observe it at almost twice that depth.

Allie and her friends see a Dumbo octopus when on the seafloor of the Sirena Deep. However, Dumbo octopuses have been known to only dive to 7,000m (22,965.9 ft). Snailfish, too, have not been observed lower than 8,000m (26,246.7ft). Each of these animals were described at over 2,800m (9,186ft) their currently known depth.

Deep-sea coral has not been found as deep as the Sirena Deep before, but with an area as vast as the Mariana Trench is, who knows what could be down there. Typically, deep-sea coral live in depths of up to 6,000m (20,000ft)(1). In Shark Station, the deep-sea coral they find at the bottom of the Sirena Deep were at over 10,800m (35,400ft).

Overall, my reasons for using the gaps in knowledge was to provide the reader with an awe-inspiring experience of Allie and her friends’ time in Shark Station. I considered whether or not it could even be a possibility that these animals could live in the Sirena Deep. To answer my own question, I would say yes. All of the creatures I featured at depths lower than they typically dive have the physiological adaptations to live at lower depths. The only limiting factors would be the difference in pressure exerted on the body for each species and food availability. As far as location, each of the species described in the trench have been known to inhabit those waters, so with that, I did not take any liberties.

  *As I was doing research for this post, I discovered that the Sirena Deep is NOT the second deepest part of the ocean, the Horizon Deep is. This was confirmed almost seven months after the publication of Shark Station. But the Sirena Deep is still the second deepest part of the Mariana Trench (that we know of). This is a perfect example of how we’re still learning about the ocean every dive and new knowledge is obtained all the time. If you want to read about the first manned dive to the Horizon Deep, you can click here.

I hope you have a greater understanding of the differences between reality and fiction in Shark Station. Perhaps, one day, with further knowledge of the undersea world, we’ll discover that the animal behaviors in Shark Station are in fact, more reality than fiction.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. In two weeks will be the last blog post for Shark Station and no more blog posts will be posted until after the next novel is released. Be sure to subscribe so you’ll be notified when the blog posts for the next book begin. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.


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