In a study aimed to learn more about the organisms associated with hydrothermal vents, scientists ended up discovering a new underwater volcanic vent in a remote region of the Southern Ocean.
Hydrothermal vents spew jets of hot water from the seafloor into the surrounding ocean. The hot water rises like a fountain, spreading the nutrients and dissolved metals up and out. The dissolved metals and other chemicals provide nourishment for many unique organisms that are able to survive in extreme temperatures and without oxygen.
Scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Southampton, were focusing on how these organisms evolve and migrate between different regions. What they found was that the Hook Ridge vent is different from most “classic” hydrothermal vents. It lacks the high temperatures and organisms associated with other vents and instead had a low-lying plume of shimmering water. The shimmering is caused by differences between the surrounding water and the water coming from the vent.
The researchers proposed that there were no strange-looking creatures at the Hook Ridge vent because hydrothermal activity there is too irregular.
“This region was investigated because hydrothermal systems in this part of the Southern Ocean may potentially act as stepping stones for genetic material migrating between separate areas in the world ocean,” explained Dr. Alfred Aquilina, lead author and former research fellow at University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science.
“The more hydrothermal vents we can find and investigate, the more we can understand about the evolution and dispersal of the creatures that live off the chemicals expelled in these dark, deep environments.”
To learn more:
- Read the full article from NOC: Shimmering water reveals cold volcanic vent in Antarctic waters
- Find the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, here: Geochemical and Visual Indicators of Hydrothermal Fluid Flow through a Sediment-Hosted Volcanic Ridge in the Central Bransfield Basin (Antarctica)
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