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Pictures: Deepest Ocean Vents Swarm With Heat-Vision Shrimp?

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Sea Dragon
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« on: January 16, 2012, 03:16:21 am »

Pictures: Deepest Ocean Vents Swarm With Heat-Vision Shrimp?




Heat-Seeing Shrimp?

Image courtesy University of Southampton/NOC

Far beneath the Caribbean Sea (map), at the world's deepest volcanic ocean vents, robotic vehicles have helped find a new species of shrimp (pictured) that may have Superman-style heat vision.

Though the vent field and a sister site nearby were found in spring 2010, details and pictures of new species at the site were released just yesterday.

Located near the Cayman Islands, the hot seafloor vents are nearly 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) deep—about 2,900 feet (880 meters) deeper than the previous record holder.

About 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) away, the expedition also found a second mineral-rich vent field close to a section of seafloor where tectonic plates are separating.

There, unexpectedly, a chunk of mantle is poking through Earth's crust. (The planet's hot, semifluid mantle rock layer is typically contained miles below the planet's thin, hard outer crust.)

Though the mantle area is only half as deep as the deepest vent field, both sites are inhabited by hordes of new species, including sea anemones, fish, and swarms of 1-inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) shrimp (above) with purple organs that may detect infrared light beaming from the vents.

"We were absolutely stunned to find these vent sites," said marine geochemist Doug Connelly of the U.K.'s National Oceanography Centre and a member of the expedition.

Vents like this "may be far more common than we think they are," he said. "We just may not be looking in all of the right places."

The discoveries follow closely behind another deep-sea expedition just north of Antarctica by the same team. That investigation found warm bastions of life—including new yeti crab species and a ghostly octopus—on the usually near-freezing ocean bottom. (See pictures: "'Lost World' of Odd Species Found Off Antarctica.")

Details of Earth's deepest volcanic vents are described today in the journal Nature Communications.

—Dave Mosher

Published January 10, 2012

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/01/pictures/120110-deepest-ocean-volcanic-vents-shrimp-science/
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Sea Dragon
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2012, 03:18:39 am »




Beebe the Black Smoker

Image courtesy University of Southampton/NOC

The expedition named the deepest volcanic ocean vent site "Beebe" (pictured), after marine explorer William Beebe, who pioneered deep-ocean research in the early 20th century.

Shown here is one of the Beebe site's black smoker chimneys—the hottest and most mineral-rich type of vents on the ocean bottom. Connelly estimated this one spews water that's roughly 752 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius).

At such depths, the water pressure is about 500 times stronger than atmospheric pressure at sea level—"equivalent to a large car crushing down on every square inch," Connelly said.

(Watch a video of hydrothermal vents.)

Published January 10, 2012
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Sea Dragon
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2012, 03:20:09 am »



Superman Shrimp?

Photograph courtesy University of Southampton/NOC 

When Connelly and his colleagues sent down their robotic submersible, they weren't expecting to find much—and certainly not deep-sea vents swarming with rich marine life.

The shell of this new shrimp species, Rimicaris hybisae, harbors bacteria that feed on the vent's hydrogen sulfide-rich minerals.

The bacteria likely provide nutrients directly to the shrimp in exchange for shelter, but the shrimp may also digest some of the microbes from time to time.

"The orange color is where the bacteria are, and those purple-black parts at the front, we think, are optical bodies," Connelly said. "They might use them to see the heat in the vent so they don't get too close or drift too far away."

It wouldn't be the first time shrimp have seen light invisible to humans—mantis shrimp, for example, can see ultraviolet wavelengths.

(Related: "Three-Foot 'Shrimp' Had More Than 30,000 Lenses Per Eye?")

Published January 10, 2012
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Sea Dragon
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2012, 03:21:16 am »



Fish 'n Shrimps

Image courtesy University of Southampton/NOC

At the shallower, newly announced vent site, called Von Damm, the researchers found 8- to 10-inch long (20- to 25-centimeter-long) Pachycara fish tucked among the shrimp swarms.

"These fish are opportunistic feeders," Connelly said. "We think they can eat lots of different things, from bits of floating organic matter to microbial mats."

The creatures look "white and clean," because the Von Damm site's "lost city" smokers lack the murky minerals of the deeper site's black smokers—minerals that might be filtered out as the fluids travel under the seafloor from beneath Beebe up to Von Damm.

(See "'Weird Beastie' Shrimp Have Super Vision.")

Published January 10, 2012
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Sea Dragon
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2012, 03:22:05 am »




Sea Anemones

Image courtesy University of Southampton/NOC

Although the deepest volcanic vent field, Beebe, lacks fish, it had palm-size sea anemones (pictured) that the shallower Von Damm site doesn't.

The anemones should be at both sites, Connelly said. "It's not an issue of depth, because we see these at vents on the Atlantic Ridge" that are at the same depths as Von Damm, he said. "It's probably an issue of chemistry."

The anemones may have a mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria like the shrimp do, but the anemones are most likely opportunistic feeders that pull food from the warm, deep-sea waters, Connelly said.

(Related: "Deep-Sea 'Smoker' Vent's Rumble Reveals Ocean Clues.")

Published January 10, 2012
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Sea Dragon
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2012, 03:23:01 am »



Custom Ride

Photograph courtesy University of Southampton/NOC

To find the deep-sea vents and the life they harbor-and even to retrieve some of it—the researchers used a custom-built HyBIS unmanned submersible, which is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) square.

The cost of a HyBIS—roughly U.S. $300,000 to $400,000-is a fraction of that of typical robotic submersibles (typically $6 million to $7 million) and offers a lot of flexibility.

"It has really saved our bacon, as it were. The first time, we used it not expecting to find much but did, so we hauled it up and reconfigured it dramatically," Connelly said.

"We were able to collect way more data and specimens than we thought we could."

(Related: "Hydrothermal Vents Found in Arctic Ocean.")

Published January 10, 2012
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Sea Dragon
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2012, 03:23:36 am »

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