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Red Sea 2020

The Red Sea is one of the least explored major bodies of water in the world. The Red Sea is home to unique, endemic species of fish and corals new to science, and the most thermally tolerant animals in the world — perhaps providing genomic clues about how corals and other species can adapt to future warming oceans. On this mission, OceanX delves into this unexplored region to reveal the beauty of its biodiversity and unlock the secrets of climate change adaptation.

OceanX Ship

Science Objective

OceanX and local researchers worked together on the OceanXplorer to map and characterize the deep sea, discover species new to science, conduct nearshore shallow water coral reef surveys, and unravel the coral genome to identify the adaptations of thermally resilient reef systems, aka “Super Corals”. We conducted aerial surveys to assess the abundance of megafauna in previously unstudied ecosystems. Additionally, we surveyed nearshore and deep-water sites for evidence of the distribution and evolution of Nabatean maritime routes, which were important networks of land and sea passages connecting the Arabian peninsula to the rest of the world.

Science Accomplishments

  • 960 hours and 3,696 km of OceanXplorer operation
  • 11,000 hours of scuba diving surveys
  • 4,307 square km of seabed mapped in 3D high resolution
  • Deployment of 4 satellite tags on marine wildlife and 152 sightings of megafauna (whale sharks, thresher sharks, manta rays, green and hawksbill sea turtles, etc.)
  • 831 hours of submersible and ROV operations
  • 5 new species discovered
  • 20 species documented with range expansions
  • 3 ancient shipwrecks discovered
  • 1 new brine pool discovered


Alothman, A., López-Sandoval, D., Duarte, C. M., & Agustí, S. (2023). Bacterioplankton dark CO2 fixation in oligotrophic waters. Biogeosciences, 20(17), 3613–3624.

Anker, A., Vimercati, S., Barreca, F., Marchese, F., Chimienti, G., Terraneo, T.I, Rodrigue, M., Eweida, A.A., Qurban, M., Duarte, C.M., Pieribone, V., & Benzoni, F. (2023). Mesophotic and Bathyal Palaemonid Shrimp Diversity of the Red Sea, with the Establishment of Two New Genera and Two New Species. Diversity, 15, 1028.

Bracchi, V.A., Purkis, S.J., Marchese, F., Nolan, M.K.B., Terraneo, T.I., Vimercati, S., Chimienti, G., Rodrigue, M., Eweida, A.A., & Benzoni, F. (2023). Mesophotic foraminiferal-algal nodules play a role in the Red Sea carbonate budget. Nature Communications Earth Environ, 4(288)

Chimienti, G., Terraneo, T.I., Vicario, S., Marchese, F., Purkis, S.J., Eweida, A.A., Rodrigue, M., & Benzoni, F. (2022) A new species of Bathypathes (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Antipatharia, Schizopathidae) from the Red Sea and its phylogenetic position. ZooKeys 1116:1-22.

Garzon, F., Williams, C.T., Cochran, J.E.M., Tanabe, L.K., Abdulla, A., Berumen, M.L., Habis, T., Marshall, P.A., Rodrigue, M., & Hawkes, L.A. (2022). A multi-method characterization of Elasmobranch & Cheloniidae communities of the north-eastern Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba. PLoS ONE, 17(9): e0275511.

Humphreys, A.F., Abdulla, A., Sherman, S., Levine, J., Arista, K., Jones, L., Hoffman, C., Palavicini, G., Vimercati, S., Terraneo, T. I., Ouhssain, M., Rodgriue, M., & Purkis, S. J. (2022). Amphisteginalobifera foraminifera are excellent bioindicators of heat stress on high latitude Red Sea reefs. Coral Reefs, 41, 1211–1223

Khamis, A., Alcoverro, T., D’Souza, E., Arthur, R., Pagès, J. F., Shah, J., Al-Qahtani, T., & Eweida, A. A. (2022). Identifying conservation priorities for a widespread dugong population in the Red Sea: Megaherbivore grazing patterns inform management planning. Marine Environmental Research, 181, 105762.

Maggioni, D., Terraneo, T.I.,Chimienti, G., Marchese, F., Pica, D., Cairns, S.D., Eweida, A.A., Rodrigue, M., Purkis, S.J., & Benzoni, F. (2022). The First Deep-Sea Stylasterid (Hydrozoa, Stylasteridae) of the Red Sea. Diversity, 14(241),

Nunes Peinemann, V., Pombo-Ayora, L., Cochran, J. E. M., Marchese, F., Chimienti, G., Rodrigue, M., Eweida, A. A., Marshall, P. A., Benzoni, F., & Berumen, M. L. (2023). First record of Boulenger’s anthias Sacuraboulengeri (Heemstra 1973) in the Red Sea. Journal of Fish Biology, 102(1), 294–298.

Purkis, S. J. (2022). Geochemical and genomic data from the NEOM Brine Pool (Gulf of Aqaba) (Version v1.1) [Data set]. Zenodo.

Purkis, S. J., Ward, S. N., Shernisky, H., Chimienti, G., Sharifi, A., Marchese, F., Benzoni, F., Rodrigue, M., Raymo, M. E., & Abdulla, A. (2022). Tsunamigenic Potential of an Incipient Submarine Landslide in the Tiran Straits. Geophysical Research Letters, 49(4), e2021GL097493.

Purkis, S. J., Shernisky, H., Swart, P. K., Sharifi, A., Oehlert, A., Marchese, F., Benzoni, F., Chimienti, G., Duchatellier, G., Klaus, J., Eberli, G. P., Peterson, L., Craig, A., Rodrigue, M., Titschack, J., Kolodziej, G., & Abdulla, A. (2022). Discovery of the deep-sea NEOM Brine Pools in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Nature Communications Earth Environ, 3(146).

Terraneo, T. I., Ouhssain, M., Castano, C. B., Aranda, M., Hume, B. C. C., Marchese, F., Vimercati, S., Chimienti, G., Eweida, A. A., Voolstra, C. R., Jones, B. H., Purkis, S. J., Rodrigue, M., & Benzoni, F. (2023). From the shallow to the mesophotic: a characterization of Symbiodiniaceae diversity in the Red Sea NEOM region. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10.

Terraneo, T. I., Arrigoni, R., Marchese, F., Chimienti, G., Eweida, A. A., Rodrigue, M., & Benzoni, F. (2022). The complete mitochondrial genome of Dendrophylliaminuscula (Cnidaria: Scleractinia) from the NEOM region of the Northern Red Sea, Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 7(5), 848-850, DOI: 10.1080/23802359.2022.2074803

Vimercati, S., van der Meij, S.E.T., Terraneo, T.I., Chimienti, G., Marchese, F., Eweida, A.A., Purkis, S.J., Rodrigue, M., & Benzoni, F. (2023). A Red Sea Depth Record of the Coral-Dwelling Crab Opecarcinus (Decapoda: Cryptochiridae) in the Mesophotic Zone. Diversity, 15(6):723.

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