sandy seafloor in deep water with some marine life

Seabed habitats and their associated biodiversity

Part of the North West Shoals to Shore Research Program

AIMS researchers prepare a towed video on RV Solander 

Past sea level change has resulted in drowned coastlines around Australia‚Äôs margin, one of which is the Ancient Coastline Key Ecological Feature (AC KEF) at 125m depth in the North West region. This submerged coastline has resulted in areas of a hard seafloor, an uncommon feature at that depth.

This hard seabed is thought to be an important habitat for many marine species, however we know very little about the marine animals of the AC KEF. To manage them, we need to develop a full picture of what and where they are. With this information, managers can evaluate the likely impact of a range of activities from industries such as oil and gas, fisheries and aquaculture as well as assess the effectiveness of marine protected areas.

To understand the biodiversity, researchers mapped the seafloor in detail and collected information about the water above it. They also surveyed marine life in the area using a range of techniques including towed video and baited remote underwater video systems. This data was being gathered from our ship, the RV Solander.

Researchers used this information to describe the ecosystems, assess their regional importance and develop mathematical models that will help to accurately predict the location of important habitats along the length of the AC KEF.

Understanding pearl oysters on the North West Shelf

Our researchers used similar methods to understand the distribution of pearl oysters on the North West Shelf. Pearl oysters are a valuable industry in Western Australia. A better understanding of their preferred habitat will help the management of the fishery.

We also used modern genetic techniques to understand how deep-water oysters are connected to those that live in shallow, fished areas.


Currey-Randall LM, Galaiduk R, Stowar M, Vaughan BI, Miller KJ (2021) Mesophotic fish communities of the ancient coastline in Western Australia. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0250427.


Whalan S, Puotinen M, Wakeford M, Parnum I and Miller K (2021) Distribution of the Pearl Oyster Pinctada maxima off Eighty Mile Beach, Western AustraliaFront. Mar. Sci. 8:679749. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.679749


Thomas L, Miller KJ. 2022. High gene flow in the silverlip pearl oyster Pinctada maxima between inshore and offshore sites near Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia. PeerJ 10:e13323


Birt, Matthew & Langlois, Tim & Mclean, Dianne & Harvey, Euan. (2021). Optimal deployment durations for baited underwater video systems sampling temperate, subtropical and tropical reef fish assemblages. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 538. 151530. 10.1016/j.jembe.2021.151530


Birt, M.J., Stowar, M., Currey-Randall, L.Met al. Comparing the effects of different coloured artificial illumination on diurnal fish assemblages in the lower mesophotic zone. Mar Biol 166154 (2019).


Bond, Todd & Mueller, Robert & Birt, Matthew & Prince, Jane & Miller, Karen & Partridge, Julian & Mclean, Dianne. (2020). Mystery pufferfish create elaborate circular nests at mesophotic depths in Australia. Journal of Fish Biology. 97. 10.1111/jfb.14506