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Bruce SHILLITO's picture


Assistant professor


Sorbonne Université (SU)



+33 1 44 27 35 02


Sorbonne Université (SU)


Team 3: Adaptations to Extreme Environments
Enceinte de récolte sous pression PERISCOP

Research topics

My research activities include two main topics, which link to the Biology of Deep Sea Organisms :

  1. The study of the stress response in deep-sea hydrothermal organisms, with a focus on temperature and pressure variations. The Deep hydrothermal habitat is characterized by steep thermal gradients, on both temporal and spatial scales. The study of biological features such as thermal preferendum, thermal resistance, or the ability to respond to hyperthermia, improves our understanding of the ecology of species inhabiting such an unstable environment. Regarding studies on animal response to pressure variations, the aim is to better understand bathymetric distribution of species, and potential for migration in the water column. Undertaking such investigations requires experiments on live animals, and therefore the use of pressurised equipment to maintain deep sea fauna alive at the laboratory.
  2. The design of pressurized instruments is a fundamental part of my research activity. Deep sea animals are naturally submitted to hydrostatic pressure, and this parameter linearly increases as a function of depth, exceeding a thousand times the atmospheric pressure, in the deepest known areas (subduction zones). Since deep organisms do not tolerate prolonged exposure to atmospheric pressure, specific instruments are required to restore at the laboratory the pressure conditions prevailing at depth. I have supervised the design and realisation of pressurised prototypes which simulate depths of 3000 m at the lab (IPOCAMP and BALIST), and also allow deep-sea sampling and recovery at in situ pressure (PERISCOP). I have also played an active part in the design of the first pressure aquarium for public exhibition of live deep animals, the AbyssBox, at the public aquarium of Océanopolis (Brest, France).