Hydrothermal Vent Found Via Shimmering Water

Written by on February 7, 2013 in Marine Life
Black smoker at a mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent.

Black smoker at a mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent. Photo credit: OAR/National Undersea Research Program, NOAA.

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:

White smokers at the Champagne vent in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

White smokers at the Champagne vent in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Photo credit: NOAA.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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