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Panamanian scientist leading exploration of underwater mountain

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A Smithsonian underwater expedition  led by Panamanian  marine biologist Hector Guzman is exploring an underwater   mountain  24 km from Coiba Island.

The team  of scientists  will descend 300 meters by submarine to describe "for the first time preliminarily fauna of the depths" of the Hannibal Bank. group headed by Panamanian marine biologist  Hector Guzman of the Smithsonian in Panama. 

The expedition, which concludes on Saturday, March 10, left for the exploration site on  on Sunday March 3 and made the first dive on Monday

A press release from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute said that the expedition also intends to carry out  bioprospecting and expand the list of species of soft corals and other invertebrates so far known to science.

"The information generated from this examination will serve the authorities of Panama as a backup to ensure adequate protection of this special habitat This first study of the fauna of Hannibal Bank seeks to fill that void of information that yo ensure  its protection and management, "said Guzman.

Hannibal Bank is 300 meters deep and is located 24 kilometers from the western part of Coiba Island in the Special Zone of Marine Protection Coiba National Park,  is considered Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO. 

"The Bank is an underwater mountain about 900 meters high that comes from the seabed and creates unique habitats in the deep ocean. Because of its shape, the oceanographic characteristics of their surroundings favor the high biodiversity of unique species, including fish and corals," the release said.

The team is composed of scientists from the Smithsonian, the Institute for Science and High Technology Services (INDICASAT) of the National Secretariat of Science and Technology (Senacyt) of the National Environmental Authority, the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama and the University of Panama..

Hannibal Bank says the Smithsonian Institute notes is an important site for, crafts and sports and requires special care to avoid unregulated exploitation. It is subject to intensive fishing throughout the year.

High-resolution video will record the diversity, abundance and distribution of organisms macro-invertebrates and fish aggregations.

An expandable arm of the submarine will allow the collection of samples of organisms identification and description and  possibly new species.