Pourquoi pas les abysses?


The great project of the IFREMER

Dive in the deep blue sea with Daniela Zeppilli and Gilles Martin and follow the great project of the IFREMER « Pourquoi pas les abysses ? ». New photographs will be published throughout the adventure until the beginning of the travelling exhibition which will start from Brest around the end of 2019.

The ambitious project « Pourquoi pas les abysses ? » aims to increase knowledge of deep water biodiversity. It will help study on a large scale the marine biodiversity patterns in the deep ocean trenches and will enable progress toward the identification of these lesser-known species. This scientific project is carried by some thirty researchers, such as the Italian oceanographer Daniela Zeppilli. She is known worldwide and has an expert knowledge of communication and science popularization.

The metabarcoding

Metabarcoding and other molecular techniques will enable the detection of DNA sequences of rare species. They will also provide information on the frequency and the dating of potential events in the deep sea, the evolution of great kingdoms of life and ancestral wildlife motions during great geological ages.

Moreover, these molecular techniques might contribute to solve the societal issue on the impact of mining in the deep ocean biodiversity by developing methodologies to define initial conditions, impacts and to set follow-up actions. This work will be based upon studies carried out on fields during oceanographic campaigns dedicated to the deep sea.

«We can hope, from a sample of a seabed sediment, at a depth of 4,000, 5,000, 8,000 meters, to extract the DNA it contains and then make an inventory of the species in the environment.», explains Sophie Arnaud-Haond who leads the project with Florence Pradillon.

Source of the paragraph "The metabarcoding": Pourquoi pas les abysses ? - Ifremer. Please follow the link: <https://wwz.ifremer.fr/Recherche-Technologie/Projets-MERLIN-Pour-la-MER-Lancement-d-Initiatives-Nouvelles/Pourquoi-pas-les-abysses>

A challenge in photography

« IFREMER contacted me to take exclusive pictures of meiofauna and macrofauna of the deep ocean (polychaetes, nematodes, crustaceans, echinoderms, molluscs) extracted during different expeditions of the research ship called Pourquoi pas ?

IFREMER technical specifications define that the largest specimens to photograph are 3 cm long and the smallest measure only a few micometers. I take most of my photographs in my studio in Tours with my own equipment: a bellows, a stereoscopic microscope Zeiss and a fluorescent optical microscope Zeiss. To complete that, I go to the IFREMER institute in Brest to shot pictures with the scanning electron microscope with high magnification, up to a magnification of 2 million times.

In post-production my photographs will be edited by a team of 3D graphic designers who will animate these pictures to produce an exhibition. »

Overview of the small abyssal fauna. (Namatoda, poluchaeata, ostracoda, copépoda, kinorhyncha). Optical microscope. © Gilles Martin / Ifremer


The Pourquoi Pas ? is an oceanographic research vessel named in homage to the Commandant Charcot. This famous French sailor and oceanographer made his polar expeditions aboard four exploration ships of the same name.
Nowadays the Pourquoi Pas ? is part of the deep-sea ships of the IFREMER fleet. The ship is in service since September 27th, 2005.
With a length of almost 110 m, this ship enables the IFREMER to lead several missions such as hydrography, cartography and the deployments of exploration submarines like the Nautile. The French Navy borrows the ship 150 days per year.


Designed by the IFREMER in 1984, the Nautile is a submarine which can dive to depths of 6,000 meters. This spherical-shaped submarine has a capacity of three people in 5 cubic meters. It can withstand a pressure range up to 900 bars. Thanks to its resistance, it makes 97% of the deep ocean accessible.
The Nautile is equipped with flashbulbs, cameras and projectors to shot pictures of meiofauna during the expeditions. It has performed over 1,500 expeditions around the world and has permitted to observe famous shipwrecks such as the Titanic.


Photographie de Gilles Martin : Vers Nereididae (Polychaeta)

Nereididae worm (Polychaeta).
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Daniela Zeppilli, océanographe de l'IFREMER de Brest.

Daniela Zeppilli, oceanographer for the IFREMER in Brest.
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Vers Polynoidae (Polychaeta).

Polynoidae worm (Polychaeta).
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographie de Houria Arhab : Gilles Martin au travail avec son microscope Zeiss.

Gilles Martin at work with his microscope Zeiss.
© Houria Arhab

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Portrait d'un polychète.

Portrait of a polychaete.
Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Méiofaune des abysses.

Under the microscope, meiofauna reveals all its beauty.
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer