World deep sea vents explored

2013-03-01 16:18
Isis, a deep-diving remotely operated vehicle, hangs special high-temperature loggers onto the side of a tall vent chimney, at Beebe hydrothermal vent in the Cayman Trough. (AP Photo/National Oceanography Centre)

Isis, a deep-diving remotely operated vehicle, hangs special high-temperature loggers onto the side of a tall vent chimney, at Beebe hydrothermal vent in the Cayman Trough. (AP Photo/National Oceanography Centre)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Kingston - Researchers steering a remote-controlled submarine around the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents have collected numerous samples from sunless depths of the Caribbean Sea where blazing hot, mineral-rich fluid gushes from volcanic chimneys that look like gnarled tree stumps.

Jon Copley, chief scientist for the expedition of Britain's National Oceanography Centre, said Wednesday he believes that laboratory analysis in the coming months will reveal some new life forms that have evolved in the pitch-black vent areas of the Cayman Trough, more than 5km below the sea's surface between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.

"From body form alone, I am confident that we have found several new species on this expedition: probably a new species of sea anemone, a few species of bristle worms, and some small crustaceans," Copley said in an email from the RRS James Cook research ship.

The researchers discovered the deepest known hydrothermal vent field and new organisms in the Caribbean trench nearly three years ago. At a depth of 4 960m, the Beebe Vent Field spews out inky, copper-enriched fluids from hot regions below the sea floor into the frigid depths of the sea.

The undersea vents are among the hottest found anywhere on the planet. The highest sustained temperature that researchers measured was just over 400 Celsius (752 Fahrenheit), said Copley, a marine biologist who works at Britain's University of Southampton.

Besides discovering new life, scientists say the study of the vents could yield a variety of new insights into the geological processes that form and drive them, the physics of so-called "supercritical fluids" - liquids so hot they act like gasses - and the chemical make-up of the ocean's depths.

Copley said studies of the marine life found in the area should also tell scientists more about how animals disperse and evolve in the dark ocean depths, which cover most of our planet.

Another scientist aboard the ship, Andrew David Thaler, a post-doctoral researcher at the Duke University marine laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina, said there were abundant populations of some species around the vents, particularly an eyeless shrimp dubbed Rimicaris hybisae that was discovered by the research team in 2010.

"They're so thick that you often can't even see the rock beneath because they're buried in blankets of shrimp," Thaler said in an email from the James Cook.

Mineral chimney

Such large amounts of anemones were found at the Beebe site that Thayer said they "look almost like meadows".

Among other things, researchers recorded images of a slender mineral chimney almost 10m tall. At another site, a mound of minerals formed by the superheated fluid rushing from the vents rises some 30m from the sea floor. They saw brilliant oranges and red colours on the seabed from the bounty of iron, and also blues and greens from copper.

The ultra-hot fluid shooting from the vents into the icy cold of the deep ocean creates a smoke-like effect and leaves behind pinnacle-shaped structures of metal ore. The pressure - 500 times stronger than the earth's atmosphere - keeps the water from boiling.

At the base of this ecosystem are chemical-eating bacteria that draw on the hydrogen sulphide and methane erupting from the vents to make food.

Unlike other living things, the organisms that inhabit the dark vent areas do not depend on photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy. Instead, chemosynthetic bacteria is the base of the food chain.

To see what scavengers might show up, a big slab of pork was dropped into depths some distance away from the vents. Cusk eels about 1.5m long and scavenging crustaceans called amphipods made short work of the meat offering, according to the expedition scientists.

"The fact that it has been so quickly eaten means that, despite being very nutrient-limited, the deep sea can still support animals capable of exploiting the random occurrence of large carcasses sinking to the sea floor," Thayer said.

- SAPA

Read more on:    jamaica  |  marine life
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Kuils River - 13:44 PM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - HEAVY DELAYS
  • Tuesday Bellville - 13:39 PM
    Road name: N1 Inbound
    VEHICLE FIRE at the Durban Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

40% off appliances & homeware

Get mind blowing deals on top selling appliances and homeware. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Lenovo A1000 tablet now R999!

Get the Lenovo A1000 tablet for only R999! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

New gobii smartphones from R999!

Front and rear camera's, dual SIM capability and 200MB of FREE Cell C data every month for 12 months, are just some of the many features on these smartphones. Get yours now! Shop here.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router The B683 wireless gateway (hereinafter...

From R1799.99

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to avoid an argument or heated conversation today. Someone may be stirring things up and testing your patience. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.