Hidden underworld filled with never-before-seen creatures discovered beneath the seafloor
Under the surface of an underwater volcano, scientists have found a secret world of bizarre creatures.
The unique habitat is filled with undiscovered life forms, such as unusual species of worms and snails and deep-dwelling Octopuses. The habitat, located beneath hydrothermal vents in the East Pacific Rise off Central America, was discovered by scientists on Falkor, a research vessel Falkor utilized a robotic arm to scrape off layers of seawater.
“On land we have long known of animals living in cavities underground, and in the ocean of animals living in sand and mud, but for the first time, scientists have looked for animals beneath hydrothermal vents,” Jyotika Virmani is the director of the executive office of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, which was the primary organizer of the expedition, said in an announcement. “This truly remarkable discovery of a new ecosystem, hidden beneath another ecosystem, provides fresh evidence that life exists in incredible places.”
Vents in 1977 when in 1977 while exploring vents in 1977 while exploring the East Pacific Ridge, a plate boundary in the tectonic plate close to the Galapagos Islands off the west coast of South America. In the Galapagos Islands, vents that resemble totems made of melted wax stand between 35 and 40 feet (10 to 12 meters) tall and pour hot, mineral-rich waters into the seas.
Even with the high temperature surrounding the vents — ranging from 694°F (368 Celsius) Celsius) scientists discovered food chains that thrived with chemosynthetic microorganisms and gastropods, crabs, and worms, all sustained by abundant nutrients flowing out of the vents.
Until now, no scientific research has examined the vents below.
In the course of their mission employed an arm powered by a robot to remove an area of the ocean floor and then put mesh boxes over the cracks in Earth’s crust. When researchers looked inside the boxes, they saw many creatures that resided in the holes, proving that the animals came from the ocean floor.
The gigantic tubeworm ( Riftia pachyptila) was particularly interesting for the scientists. A few of the animals’ young are visible in the vents, which leads scientists to speculate that the larvae catch an escape through subsea volcanic fluids to find new habitats.
“Our understanding of animal life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents has greatly expanded with this discovery,” Monika Bright, an ecologist from the University of Vienna who worked on the research, stated in the announcement. “Two dynamic vent habitats exist. Vent animals above and below the surface thrive together in unison, depending on vent fluid from below and oxygen in the seawater from above.”
Researchers, who are expected to release their findings later in the year, will continue to study the inscrutable and mysterious ecosystem that is believed to be vulnerable to the impacts of mining plans in the Pacific Ocean.
“The discoveries made on each Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition reinforce the urgency of fully exploring our ocean so we know what exists in the deep sea,” Wendy Schmidt, President and co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in the statement. “The discovery of new creatures, landscapes, and now, an entirely new ecosystem underscores just how much we have yet to discover about our Ocean — and how important it is to protect what we don’t yet know or understand.”