The benthic community of the Comau Fjord has a relatively high diversity that is stratified according to depth. The number of different species and depth are positively correlated, visibly evidenced by the increase in faunal diversity below 10 meters. In the upper 10 meters, the community is dominated by mussels (Mytilus edulis chilensis and Aulacomya atra), barnacles (Cirripedia) and a sparse 2-3 meter kelp forest (Macrocystis porifera). Below 10 meters, the community members change to:
Cold water corals (Scleractinia)
Sea whips (gorgonacea)
Sea anemones (Actiniaria)
Other anthozoans (Zoanthidea, Corallimorpharia, Alcyonacea)
Tube worms (Polychaeta)
Sea stars (Asteroidea), crabs (decapoda) and urchins (Echinoidea) are abundantly found throughout both of these zones. Counter to the patterns observed for animals, the highest diversity in algae species are observed in the upper 15 meters.
- Smaller Animals (Zooplankton)
Planktonic assemblages of the Comau Fjord have been extensively sampled by different oceanography groups visiting Huinay. Heavily studied species of these samples include krill (Euphausiacea), isopods, amphipods, hydrozoa medusa, and phytoplankton species. Please see our list of published papers to read more about the results of these studies.
Associated with the steeps walls of the fjord one may observe
(Sebastes capensis), rollizos (Pinguipes chilensis), chanchitos (Congiopodus peruvianus), congrios (Genypterus chilensis and G. maculatus), and trambollitos (Helcogrammoides cunninghami). Occasional schools of anchovies (Engraulis ringens) are spotted darting along the surface. Catfish (Schroederichthys canescens) are normal components of bycatch by local fishermen.
There are at least three consistent haul out sites for southern sea lions (Otaria flavescens), which are located at the island of Liliguapi in the mouth of the Comau Fjord, the mouth of Cahuelmo (a neighboring fjord), and near the exit for the Río Tambor. Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) have also been observed multiple times from the station. Females and juveniles have occasionally hauled out quite close to our dock, such as in December 2005. Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus australis) are fairly often spotted feeding in the bay of Huinay and will sometimes follow the wake of our boats. Orcas (Orcinus orca) are rare visitors, as well humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), right whales (Eubalaena australis), and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus).
Many species utilize the fjord as feeding grounds and nesting sites. It is always possible to spot petrels (Procelariidae) and sea gulls (Laridae). Fairly often, black-necked swans (Cygnus melanocorypha) are seen feeding at the mouth of Río Lloncochalgua/ Huinay. Very rarely there have been visits by migrating flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) to the same area. There are two main types of cormorants (Neotropic comorants – Phalacrocorax brasilianus, and Imperial Shag – Phalacrocorax atripes) that are normally observed diving for fish in front of the station. A large breeding site is located on the island of Liliguapi, where the imperial shagand threatened red-legged cormorants (Strictocarbo gaimardi) make their nests on sheer cliff sides. Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) and brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) often occur close to the mouth of the fjord as well. A local kingfisher (Ceryle torquata) and a group of black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are found perched on our dock most mornings.