Updated 13 Mar. 2011
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Jan.: Microbes may have eaten much of the methane from the 2010 Gulf spill: Researchers have found markers of increased bacterial respiration and surprisingly low methane levels in waters affected by the spill, suggesting that the methane was metabolized. Critics note, however, that the methane may have gone somewhere else and we just have not found it yet.
- Feb.: Microbes not degrading spilled Gulf oil as fast as originally thought. Recent observations show considerable oil still standing on the deep-sea bottom.
- Mar.: An Antarctic seamount covered in crinoids appears to be a remnant of a Mesozoic community . The discovery is now reaching the media, but was reported in 2010 and on the Echinoblog in Jan. 2011 .
(most recent items at end of list!) Including 2010 Gulf-of-Mexico Oil Spill
- Feb.: New research supports hydrothermal vents as site of life's origin : researchers present evidence that minerals, gases and various gradients at vents could have catalyzed synthesis of biomolecules
- Feb.: Vent snails with iron-pyrite armor analyzed: unique vent snails discovered a decade ago have armor on their feet embedded with iron pyrite. A new study reports the armor's unique organic-mineral composition and its possible implications for human armor.
- Mar.: Possible hydrothermal vents found near Antarctica: using indirect information (such as helium in the water), researchers predict that vents will be found on the Pacific Antarctic ridge.
- Apr.: Hydrothermal vents at record depth found in Cayman Trough: a UK expedition reported vents at 5km depth! Lifeforms there may be different than elsewhere since this vent area is not connected to others in the world.
- Apr.: Deep-sea animals found living without oxygen : Tiny marine animals called Loricifera were found alive at 3.5km depth in an anoxic basin in the Mediterranean by Roberto Danovaro and his team. The species are new to science and may be the only known animals to live long periods with little or no oxygen.
- May: Giant herring from the deep sea found in Sweden : an 11-ft (3.5 m) "king of herring" or oarfish Regalecus glesne was found dead near shore in Sweden. The oarfish, the world's longest bony fish, lives in the deep sea, and has not been seen in Sweden since 1879.
- May OIL-SPILL update : Gulf of Mexico oil spill may harm deep-sea life : the oil spewing out from the ruined oil-rig pipe is dispersing to form huge "plumes" at all depths in the water, possibly due to the clean-up dispersant being used, and may cause unseen damage to the deep. Another link is here . [However, not everyone is convinced yet that these plumes are real.] Also, an attempt to cap the leak with a large "funnel" was foiled by frozen gas hydrates plugging it up . For more on gas hydrates, see my SEEPS page .
- June/OIL SPILL: the NY Times has a feature article on deep-sea life in the Gulf of Mexico and the potential effects of the oil spill thereon .
- July/OIL SPILL: Oil-eating microbes, such as those found at deep-sea oil seeps, have been found growing rapidly in oil plumes in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster . Such microbes may help clean up the mess.
- July: A US-Indonesian team is mapping a newly discovered undersea volcano, 3000m (10,000ft) tall , off of Sulawesi.
- July: A new species of deep-sea pancake batfish has been found near the destroyed 2010 BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico . These tiny, flattened fish have lures and "walk" along the seafloor with their fins!
- Aug.: New deep-sea species discovered off Indonesia : using a robotic sub, scientists discovered perhaps 40 new species in this poorly known habitat, including giant sea spiders, carnivorous sponges, and sea lilies.
- Aug.: New analysis shows that the deep open ocean is by far the least studied marine habitat
- Sept.: Vent origin for life? The Smithsonian magazine Oct. 2010 has an article about research (at the Carnegie Institution) on ways that life on Earth might have originated at deep-sea hydrothermal vents
- Oct: New species of trench fish discovered. Biologists of the HADEEP program report a new snailfish species at 7000m in the Peru-Chile trench. In a related story from July 2010, a surprising abundance of snailfish were observed at a baited video in the Japan Trench at 7700m.
- Oct.: Did electrical energy at hydrothermal vent help life originate?" Researchers in Japan have shown that hydrothermal vents (at least in the lab) can generate electric currents that might trigger synthesis of organic molecules. Another link is here.
- Nov.: Squidworm, a new species of annelid worm with flambouyant squid-like tentacles, seen at 2800m depth : an expedition i 2007 to the Celebes Sea discovered this worm, Teuthidodrilus samae , and is now releasing the data.
- Nov.: Submersible dive reveals evidence of Gulf oil spill on the deep-sea floor: An expedition to the site of the BP 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico finds signs of the spill in deep sediments and animals.
- Dec.: The submersible Alvin , in operation since the 1960s, has finished its final dive and will now be dramatically transformed to enhance its capabilities.
- Dec.: The Census of Marine Life released its final report on its decade-long activities, including discoveries of many new deep-sea species.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Jan.: Deep-sea fish species reclassified from 3 families into 1 family of whalefish : 3 species of deep-sea fish, which look very different, have been now found to be closely related. Such a reclassification is a major (and rare) event in taxonomy, and illustrates the difficulty of categorizing life in the deep.
- Feb.: MBARI researchers film for the first time a barrel-eye fish with a transparent head ! This weird-looking fish as two huge eyes focused upwards through a clear dome to look for silhouettes of animals above. [The fish was featured in a hilarious news segment on the Colbert Report on Comedy Central]
- May-June: New type of hybrid ROV reaches Mariana Trench . The new vehicle is the first submersible to reach the trench since the late 1990s.
- Aug: Deep-sea worm with bioluminescent "bombs" discovered : a deep-sea pelagic polychaete has been found that throws off packets that light up like a firework or bomb, probably to distract predators while the worm escapes in the dark. Reported in Science Aug. 21 2009 issue p964.
- Sept: Deep-sea fish sold in restaurants may be endangered: the blue grenadier or hoki of New Zealand, a deep-sea fish related to cod and rattails, has been showcased as a sustainable fishery, but recent declines suggest problems are arising due to demand.
- Oct: The Oct. 17 2009 issue of New Scientist has an in-depth article on the possible origin of life at hydrothermal vents like the Lost City (see also 2008 news item #1 about the Lost City).
- Oct.: A submersible survey of deep canyons off California found that fishing gear makes up most of the trash-- New Scientist article.
- Oct.: Microbes of cold seeps have been shown to fix nitrogen as well as use sulfide and methane for energy (reported in Oct. 16, 2009 Science , p377 and 422.
- Nov 22: The Census of Marine Life released updates on recent discoveries of deep-sea life , including a worm that consumes oil and a swimming sea cucumber.
- Dec 17: Explosive deep-sea eruption video shown by geologists at annual conference. This video was taken in May in the South Pacific of the deepest active volcano yet discovered. Another, shallower volcano in the Pacific was filmed erupting in April .
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Jan.: Deep-sea vents found to produce oil and gas from inorganic sources : researchers from Woods Hole working at the Lost City vent field in the Atlantic made this breakthrough discovery, showing for the first time oil & gas production can occur independently of life.
- Jan.: New species of deep-sea eelpouts and snailfish discovered : Dr Nikki King of University of Aberdeen discovered these in trawls of the deep Indian Ocean
- Feb.: Unidentified new species discovered on the Antarctic seabed : Researchers from Australia, France and Japan explored shallow to deep areas near Antarctica down to 2000m (6500 ft), and found new kinds of fish, tunicates and other invertebrates, and unidentified giant glassy animals growing like a field of flowers. See also link #6 below
- Feb.: Krill found diving to 3000m or more in Antarctica : long considered to be shallow-water animals, these Antarcti species were observed at abyssal depths feeding.
- May: "Brittlestar City" discovered on Antarctic Seamount : On the crown of a shallow seamount between New Zealand and Antarctica, researchers discovered millions of brittlestars feeding in a swift current. Normally seamount tops are covered with corals and sponges, but not hear. [Note: this site is only 90m/300ft deep, so not truly in the deep sea.]
- May: Photo gallery of new deepsea species from Antarctica -- see story #3 above
- May: Thriving microbes found 1.6km beneath the seafloor in hot (60-100C) sediments in the Atlantic. This is twice the depth at which life has been previously found beneath the seafloor.
- June: Evidence of explosive volcanic eruption found on Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic : the eruption occurred in 1999. This type of explosive process was thought to be impossible in the deep sea due to high pressure.
- Aug.: Hottest water on Earth, in supercritical state found, at hydrothermal vent : A team from Jacobs University in Germany found a vent in the Atlantic with water up to 464C. The water is somewhere between a liquid and a gas (a 'supercritical' state) that is very efficient at dissovling minerals beneath the seafloor and carrying them into seawater.
- Aug.: New type of virus-bacteria interaction found at hydrothermal vents : Eric Wommack found viruses inside vent bacteria that were not causing problems for the host; instead, they might be introducing genes useful in the harsh habitat.
- Sept.: Deep-sea cusk eel uses special muscles to make communication sounds :
- Oct.: Deepest-living fish filmed : Japanese researchers have filmed living fishes at 7700m deep! A brotulid fish had previously been caught from below 8000m in the Carribean, but it was dead when retrieved.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Jan.: Rare deep-sea shark caught on film ! The oddly shaped frilled shark, normally found between about 2000 and 3300 feet deep (600 - 1,000 meters), was found near the surface off Japan. It may have come up from the depths due to illness, for it was in poor shape and died shortly after being filmed.
- Jan.: Hydrothermal vent glows blue ! Researchers from JAMSTEC (in Japan) report that a vent in the Okinawa Trough emits a mysterious blue glow (a color previously never reported at a vent).
- Feb.: Seafloor Methane creates undersea hills , MBARI scientists report from the Arctic
- Feb.: Deep-sea squid filmed using light to stun its prey . Japanese scientists documented a high-speed attack with flashing lights by a squid ( Taningia danae ) formerly thought to be a slow swimmer.
- Feb: New Zealand fishermen catch a COLLOSAL SQUID in Antarctic waters; the Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni weighs about 450kg (990lb) and is the first of this species to be landed intact. Collosal squid are thought be be larger overall than the more famous Giant Squid.
- Mar.: Expedition sets sail to study strange Atlantic seafloor at 3000m where there appears to be NO CRUST !
- Mar.: MBARI to deploy deep-sea cable for monitoring deep-sea life and environmental parameters . The cable, to be finished this month, will form a loop around the deep parts of Monterey Canyon.
- Mar. MBARI researchers report the discovery of a new globular, pelagic deep-sea worm .
- Mar: Rare deep squid caught off Florida : Only a few specimens of Asperoteuthis acanthoderma have ever been found; this is the first in the Atlantic. It is gelatinous and has glowing lures on its arms.
- Feb. (out of order): The vibrations of hydrothermal vents may help fish avoid being cooked
- Apr.: New deep hydrothermal vents discovered : a new species of anchored jelly has been found at deep vents on the East Pacific Rise off Costa Rica. These vent areas are new to science, and suggest that many more species are waiting to be discovered.
- May: New deep-sea species reported in Antarctic waters and sediment: researchers collected specimens down to about 20,000 ft (6000m) and found carnivorous sponges, hundreds of new species of isopods and worms.
- June: ROV exploration of a deep-sea canyon yields surpising findings : the Grand-Canyon-sized feature off Portugal has deep coral reefs, sand-dune "deserts" and boulders washed from shore. A shark was spotted at 3600m deep, well below the usual depths of sharks (see 2006 story #5 about the lack of sharks in the abyss).
- July: Deep-sea reef of glass sponges reported off Washington State coast. The reef is rich with life and may be powered by methane seeps nearby. Some of the sponges look similar to the ones we found in 2001 near methane seeps off California .
- July: Winged octopod and other "quirky" deep-sea organisms found in canyon off Eastern Canada .
- Aug.: American icebreaker mapping Arctic sea floor : as the Arctic ice cap melts, there is growing interest (especially in Russia, Denmark and Canada) in exploiting resources such as oil. The U.S. is planning to map the seafloor in detail for scientific reasons, although a Russian spokesperson asserts that the US is also hoping to exploit resources.
- Aug.: New and strange species discovered on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge : a 5-week expedition conducted as part of the CENSUS OF MARINE LIFE explored the undersea mountains from 800 to 3,500 meters.
- Oct.: Life explored in Bering Sea canyons ignites conservation debate : deep-sea discoveries in two canyons in the Bering Sea shelf are creating concerns about fisheries impacts on unique species. The Bering Sea shelf is the most heavily fished area on Earth, and trawling in these canyons could destroy deep corals, slow-growing fishe populations, etc.
- Oct.: New deep-sea species: a black jelly, worm with squidlike tentacles, and swimming sea cucumber--discovered in an isolated deep basin near the Phillipines ( Celebes Sea).
- Oct.: Numerous new species of archaea and bacteria reported at hydrothermal vents off Oregon.
- Dec: Biodiversity of dee-sea benthos correlates with ecosystem efficiency : A team led by R. Danovaro (Italy) examined 116 different deep-sea bottom sites, focusing mainly on nematodes, the most widespread animals on earth. They found that the efficiency of recycling of organic matter exponentially increases with diversity of nematode species. Threats to deep-sea biodiversity may impact the entire ocean, which depends on recycling of nutrients from the deep.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Jan.: Severe decline in deep-sea trawled species revealed: deep fish including grenadiers are rapidly being depleted by fisheries.
- Jan.: Large deposit of methane hydrate found 15mi off Los Angeles , in a mud volcano (reported by Hein et al. in the Feb. issue of Geology )
- Jan.: Male anglerfish reported to be world's smallest vertebrate . The male of Photocorynus spiniceps anglers is only 1/4 inch long. As with other anglerfish, it is a parasite that spends most of its life clamped on the skin of a larger female.
- Mar.: New species (in a new family) of deep-sea crustacean reported . The animal, named Kiwa hirsuta , looks like a hairy lobster or galatheid crab; it was found at 2300m depth last year south of Easter Island during an expedition led by Robert Vrijenhoek of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
- Mar: Depth limit of 3000m for sharks documented : using data from extensive surveys, I.G. Priede of the University of Aberdeen and co-workers show that there are no sharks below about 3000m depth. Considering that average ocean depth is about 4000m and goes down to about 11,000m, this discovery shows that most of the volume of the seas is shark-free.
- May: New species of zooplankton and fish found in the deep Atlantic . A 3-week trawl study was conducted as part of the Census of Marine Life , which aims to catalog marine species before significant changes occur as a result of increasing climate disturbances.
- Apr.-May: New eruptions appear to be occurring at the 9-North vent site on the East Pacific Rise .
- Apr. Hydrothermal-vent worms prefer hot water in the laboratory . Paralvinella tubeworms, which live around hydrothermal vents in the Pacific, were kept at high pressure in a lab chamber with a temperature gradient by Girguis and Lee. They found that the worms moved into areas of the aquarium that were as hot as 50C. This is close to the record temperature for a eukaryote. Reported in the Apr. 14 Science.
- May-June: Scientists observe deep-sea volcano in mid-eruption .
- July: Deep-sea photo competition: see excellent pictures of deep-sea critters, from the Kongsberg Underwater Image Competition at the 11th Internat'l Deep-Sea Biology meeting in Southampton in July 2006. See also the 13-July-06 issue of Nature p.116
- Aug.: Microbes found in a carbon-dioxide "lake" under the seafloor off Taiwan, at 1.4 km depth. The existence of these microbes increases our knowledge of habitats where life might be found on other worlds.
- Nov.: Weird seep creatures surveyed near New Zealand : in a submersible study at 1 km depth, scientists photographed new species at the first cold seep to be studied in the southwestern Pacific.
- Dec.: Census of Marine Life releases 2006 report on amazing life forms discovered at all ocean depths -- including shrimp once thought to be extinct and a deep-sea single-celled organism visible to the naked eye.
- Dec.: Giant squid filmed ALIVE : a research team from Japan reported this in early Dec. It is being stated as the first-ever movie of live giant squid, although another Japanese team reported the same thing in Sept. 2005 (see Item #18 under 2005 below)
- Dec.: Subsurface vent microbes can fix nitrogen at record-high temperatures : nitrogen-fixing microbes are essential to food chains. This study from the University of Washington reveals a vent microbe that can do this at 92C, a record high.
(most recent items at end of list!)
Jan.: An EMAIL HOAX is circulating about deep-sea animals supposedly washed up by the terrible tsunami last month. These animals were actually collected by a deep-sea expedition in 2003 and are featured at the National Oceans Office of Australia.
Feb.: New species of deepwater coral reported off S. California. The black coral was discovered by submersible at 90 to 220 m depths, not very deep in terms of deep-sea biology, but deep enought to have been undiscovered until now. Pictures are available at a NMFS/NOAA website.
(a) Feb.: Foraminifera discovered in sediments of the Mariana Trench: in the ocean's deepest sediments, these protists appear to be thriving under 1000 atm of pressure. Foraminifera (forams for short) are unicellular; they build shells of CaCO3 although the Marianas species are said to be soft-walled. As eukaryotes, forams are advanced cells with nuclei and other organelles, and thus do NOT represent one of earth's earliest life forms, as erroneously stated in some articles (the earliest life forms were PROKARYOTES--archaea and bacteria). Forams may, however, represent one of the earliest EUKARYOTIC life forms. Foram remains often dominate deep-sea sediments elsewhere, and can be converted into limestone (indeed, the Great Pyramids of Egypt are built out of foram limestone).
(b) Feb.: Are some so-called COLD SEEPS not actually SEEPS? Geologist Charles Paull at MBARI has found evidence that some "seeps" in the Monterey Canyon of California are not sites of seeping water with sulfides.
March: How enteropneust worms make unusual spiral patterns in deepsea mud revealed: Mysterious spiral patterns in the deepsea mud have now been explained by Holland et al. (17 March Nature). More information and pictures from this study are found here.
(a) March: Unusual organisms found at the Lost City are described in the 4-March-2005 issue of Science. The Lost City (see news story #7 in year 2001, below) on the MidAtlantic Ridge is a hydrothermal vent area that is quite different from other vent sites, having little sulfide and more hydrogen and methane. Note that the online news story has a significant ERROR: it says that microbes at other vents use carbon dioxide as an energy source. This is false. Carbon dioxide is a carbon source for producers to make sugar. Another source of this article is here.
5(b) March: Researchers sequence genome of deepsea bacterium in hopes of explaining pressure adaptations: Bartlett and colleagues at Scripps discovered that a deepsea photobacterium may have 2 sets of genes--one for high-pressure and one for lower pressures (Science, Mar. 4 issue).
May: "Eel City" discovered on new volcano: researchers are exploring a new volcano emerging under the sea near Samoa. They found swarms of eels living in cracks in the rock. It is not known what they eat, and such swarms have never been seen before in the deep sea.
May and Feb: Did deep-sea hydrogen sulfide cause the great Permian extinction? Geologists at Penn State present evidence that sudden releases of this toxic gas from the deep sea could have caused massive deaths (Geology, May 2005; Science News 28-May-05, p.339; online news story from Feb. 2005)
June: A New Zealand-USA joint expedition is studying undersea volcanoes in the South Pacific, with many startling discoveries.
June: How does life in the deep get sufficient food? A new study by Robison and colleagues at MBARI finds that mucus "sinkers" are a major source. Sinkers are sloughed-off mucus nets of larvaceans--midwater animals related to benthic sea squirts. See the article in the June 10, 2005 Science.
June: Microbe that uses hydrothermal-vent light to photosynthesize reported: Beatty et al. (in the June 28 Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA) have collected and cultivated a green sulfur bacterium from 2500m at vents on the East Pacific Rise. They present evidence that they can capture energy from the faint infrared glow of the vents. (A former student of mine, Tracey Martinson, is a co-author!)
July: MBARI researchers report new type of siphonophore that attracts prey with bioluminescence: siphonophores, relatives of the Portuguese Man O' War, normally use bioluminescence for defense only.
July: New ecosystem at cold seeps discovered under Antarctic Ice shelf: at 850 m deep, newly discovered cold seeps off Antarctica were found after the Larsen Ice Shelf collapsed in 2002. These are the first seeps studied in near-freezing water. They harbor as-yet-unidentified clams and bacteria.
July: Is the giant squid a cannibal? Researchers at the University of Tasmania studying stomach contents of giant squids found fragments of tentacles from other giant squid.
July.: Depths of Arctic Ocean teeming with life: An expedition from the Univ. of Alaska has been exploring the depths of the Arctic, finding unexpectedly high abundances of cod, squid, and other animals, and new species of worms, jellies, and other animals.
Aug.: "The Life Aquatic" article in the 18-Aug-05 issue of Nature describes the life of deep-sea biologist Cindy Lee Van Dover, one of the leading explorers of hydrothermal vents.
Aug.: Northern-most hydrothermal vents discovered in Arctic Ocean: scientists on a Norwegian-led expedition found these vents at 71N latitude, north of Iceland, at 500-700m depth. They may harbor tubeworms, which are currently only known to be in the Pacific.
Sept.: Deep-sea sharks are being devastated off NW Europe by fishing fleets. Due to depletion of shallow fish, gill nets are being dropped to 800-1200m now. As the nets are not checked daily, many ensnarled fish die, including slow-breeding sharks. See New Scientist 24-Sept.-2005 p4.
Sept.: GIANT SQUID PHOTOGRAPHED LIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME! Japanese researchers obtained the photos last year of the Bonin islands at 900m depth; the data have just now been published in the Royal Society Journal.
Nov.: New Scientsis 12-Nov-2005 has a special 16-page story on THE DEEP. This includes separate articles on new discoveries, reproduction in the darkness, and "zombie" worms recently discovered on whale carcasses.
Dec.: Parental care by a deep-sea squid reported in Nature 15-Dec-05 p929. Seibel et al. observed Gonatus onyx carrying and aerating masses of developing eggs, probably the first report of post-spawning parental care by a squid.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Feb.: New species of deep-sea jelly discovered in the deep-sea by MBARI researchers (work done in 2003, published in 2004)
- May: Asphalt in the Deep ! Hydrocarbon-seeps of asphalt reported in the deep Gulf of Mexico . Resembling paved roads, these unusual seeps were found near collapsed salt domes, where various tar was apparently squeezed out like lava. Various animals such as tubeworms, clams and mussels were found on or near the asphalt.
- May: Undersea volcano reported near Antarctica. A young volcanic seamount, rising to within 275m of the surface, has been confirmed on the shelf off N. Antarctica. Its location on a shelf is unusual.
- May: Scientists explore Marianas Back-Arc spreading center , witnessing an undersea eruption and discovering unique biological communities.
- July: Mysterious deepsea blobs that occasionally wash ashore turn out to be old whale blubber. See also News Item #13 in 2003
- July: El Nino affects deep-sea animals even at 2.5 miles (4 km) depth : Drs. H. Ruhl and K. Smith found that sea cucumbers and other deep-sea animals are affected by the food supply of the surface waters which in turn changes drastically during an El Nino event. Reported in the 23 July issue of Science and 24 July issue of Science News.
- Aug.: A feature article on deep-sea corals appeared in the Aug. 7 issue of Science News
- Aug.: New animal species from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (including squid, anglerfish) reported from a biodiversity survey this month , conducted as part of the Census of Marine Life .
- Sept.: Seismic surveys by oil companies may be killing giant squid . Large numbers of dead giant squid off Spain may be related to oil exploration.
- Oct.: Ancient fungal spores from deep-sea sediments revived in la b. Fungal spore up to 430,000 years old were recovered in core sediments at 6k m deep in the Chagos Trench off India. In the lab, the spores were found to be still viable!
- Dec.: Giant squid to be plastinated for public display . Artist Von Hagens , known for his sculptures made by preserving human bodies with plastic polymer, will preserve giant squid from New Zealand.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Hypothesis of Black-Sea Deluge as Noah's Flood is Challenged . See the original story below on the idea that a massive flood from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea (thousands of years ago) gave rise to the Noah legend. Researchers have been using deep-sea technology to look for evidence deep in the Black Sea. New research contradicts the hypothesis. The question is still open.
- Jan. 11: Bacteria found deep under the sea floor . S. Giovannoni of Oregon State University and colleagues report tghe discovery of microbes living in fluids in the Earth'c crust 300m below the Juan de Fuca Ridge. They suggest that there is an enormous microbial ecosystem in the crust that is independent of sunlight. See the 11-Jan issue of New Scientist , p.13, or click the link above.
- Jan. 18: Unexpectedly high activity of hydrothermal venting found in Arctic Ridge. H. Edmonds and colleagues found that the Gakkel Ridge under the ice of the Arctic Ocean has more hydrothermal vents that geologist predicted. As the ocean is isolated, these vents may have undiscovered species of vent animals and microbes. Click the link above, or See Jan. 18 Science News , p.37.
- Jan.-Feb: Robotic probes explore the oceans . In recent years, several types of robotic vehicles have been designed to explore, measure and map the deep ocean. Two new articles on these give details: Nature v.421 p. 468 (30-Jan-03); and Science News 1-Feb-03 p. 75.
- Jan. 31: Resources of the deep sea: An article by P. Rona in the 31-Jan-03 Science , p.673, discusses the mineral and petroleum resources of the deep ocean floor. Unique mineral deposits form in the deep from hydrothermal activity.
- Apr. 02: Collosal squid caught in the Antarctic : An intact but dead Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni , the collosal squid known only from 6 specimens, was caught near Antarctica. This species is much larger than the famous Giant Squid! It may grow well over 20m/66ft in length, though no one knows. See also item 17 below .
- Apr 26: " A Rocky Start " is an article in the Apr. 26 Science News on recent research on the origin of life . In particular, conditions at hydrothermal vents along with iron-sulfide catalysis might have been the key.
- May 7: New species of huge jelly found in the bathypelagic : off Central California, researchers from MBARI have discoverd "Big Red," a meter-wide jelly with short arms instead of tentacles, which they think lives between 600 and 1500m (bathypelagic). Little else is known.
- June 7: A record high temperature for life was reported by Kashefi and colleagues at the Amer. Soc. Microbiology meeting in May. They report isolating a archaeon (archaebacterium) from volcanic fluid on the Pacific seafloor; the microbe can grow at 121C and even live at 130C (the previous record was 113C ). See the June 7 issue of Science News , p.366.
- May 31: The earliest life on Earth was probably in hot springs or hydrothermal vents , according to a new genetic analysis showing the relatedness of all major life groups correlated by thermal tolerance. The analysis yields an evolutionary tree that shows the earliest life forms were adapted to very high temperatures. See New Scientist May 31 2003, p.20, or click the link.
- June 14: The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench has now been found to be the result of one tectonic plate being forced under another plate in a way that is causing the first plate to be torn in two. This creates the great depth of this trench. See New Scientist June 14, 2003, p.16.
- June 26: More information was released on the odd Gakkel Ridge , the spreading center hidden under the Arctic icecap. This ridge is deeper and slower-spreading than other ridge areas, and has unexpectedly high hydrothermal activity. See Nature 26-June 2003, p.932.
- July 2: Mysterious deep-sea blob washes ashore in Chile . It might be a rare 40-foot (12-meter) giant octopus from 3000m, or something more mundane such as a piece of whale skin, or a conglomeration of plankton. See news item #12 under "2002 NEWS" below for a real deep-sea octopus. UPDATEs DEC. 2003/July 2004: Researchers use molecular analysis to discover that the blob is skin from a sperm whale!
- July 26: Hydrothermal Mineral formations at the Lost City on the MidAtlantic Ridge may be at least 30,000 years old. See Science News July 26, p. 52 . See 2005 news for an update! Meanwhile, an expedition explored the methane seeps of the Blake Ridge off the SE USA.
- July 26-Aug. 10: Iron-eating microbes on the Titanic are described in an article in New Scientist , July 26, p. 36. .
- July 31: Larve of hydrothermal vent animals may spread to other vents from their parents by following currents within a rift valley. Thomson et al. report in Nature v424 p545 (July 31) on these vent-induced currents that stay within the valley of the Endeavor Ridge off Washington State.
- Aug. 2: The giant and collosal squids are discussed in an article in New Scientist 2-Aug-03, p. 24 . See item 6 above also .
- Aug. 21: A deep-sea sponge's skeleton is a fiber-optic device as good as or better than human-made cables...click the link, or see Nature Aug. 21 issue.
- Aug. 22: Seamounts (undersea mountains) off Cape Cod were explored in July, and a news story appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of Science . Seamounts, of which there may be 30,000 in the sea, are largely unexplored, and so far have been fouhnd to have many animals species previously unknown. Click the blue link for information on the internet.
- Sept. 3: A deep-sea nursery for blob sculpin and an octopus were discovered by MBARI scientists using an ROV on a ridge off N. California. Large numbers of the fish and octopod were found brooding their eggs on the ridge, a behavior not before documented.
- Sept. 9 and Aug. 15: Record high temperature found for life discovered: 130C (266F) for a vent microbe (Aug. 15). The discovery was by Dr. D. Lovley and colleagues ( Science , Aug. 15 issue), who later reported that these microbes use IRON as an energy source and produce MAGNETITE as a result. Magnetite is the naturally magnetic mineral that humans first used to make compasses.
- Oct. 23: The Census of Marine Life is a decade-long project (involving 53 coutries) that hopes to catalogue as many marine species as possible. New species are being found routinely, including new species of deep-sea fish . See also this CBS News Story .
- Nov. 6: Jellies are turning out to have a far greater role in ocean ecosystems than previously suspected, especially in the deep sea.The 6-Nov-03 issue of Nature (vol. 426, pp12-14) has a news feature on "Close encounters of the jelly kind" describing the latest research with submersibles, etc. An example of a newly discovered deep-sea jelly can be found in this Zootaxa article .
- Nov. 7: Hot-vent gastropod has iron-sulfide armor ! Waren et al. report in the 7-Nov-03 Science (p. 1007) that a snail from Indian-Ocean hydrothermal vents has unique plates of iron-sulfide crystals covering its foot.
- Dec. 17: WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanogr. Inst) announced plans to build a "hybrid" ROV to dive to the greatest ocean depths . The Japanese ROV KAIKO had been the only vehicle that could dive to the deepest depths, visiting the Marianas Trench in 1995. Unfortunately, it was lost at sea in Sept. 2003 .
(most recent items generally at end of list!)
- Deep-sea animals may hear food falling . M. Klages of the Alfred Wegner Institute has evidence that deep-sea shrimp can detect fresh food falls before they can smell it; sensitive hearing is possibly the mechanism.
- Novel type of Archaea discovered at a hydrothermal vent . Huber et al. discovered an archaeal microbe growing on an apparent host microbe at a hot vent off Iceland. The new microbe has the smallest genome yet known for life on earth and its DNA does not match known Archaea types. See Nature 2-May-02, p. 27 and 63.
- Microbiology of hydrothermal vents is described (by Reysenbach and Shock) in a special section of Science on Environmental Microbiology, 10 May 2002, p. 1077.
- Deep canyon carries DDT into the abyss : Researchers at MBARI and Moss Landing found that the deep canyon off Monterey, Calif., has allowed the pesticide DDT to get into sediments below 3000m in the deep. See 11-May-02 New Scientist , p. 18
- First exploration of a deep Seamount : From May 17-24, an expedition led by MBARI conducted the first detailed study of a seamount (undersea mountain)--the Davidson Seamount/volcano off central California. The life found includes flytrap anemones, frogfish, mysterious rare eels such as a halosaur. See the NOAA website . or the CBS newstory on the discovery of giant coral and mystery mollusks .
- New undersea mountains discovered; call for a new era of exploration. Incredibly, previously unknown volcanoes and seamounts as high as 2500 m (8000 ft) were recently found in the South Pacific. See Science 24-May-02 p. 1386. At an international meeting in Mid-May, oceanographers from around the world called for a new international effort to explore the undescribed areas of our planet.
- "Original" hydrothermal vent disappears: the so-called Rose Garden, the very first deepsea vent with giant tubeworms ever discovered, has disappeared, probably destroyed by fresh lava. Found in 1977, the Rose Garden revolutionized our ideas about life in the oceans. See Science News 6-18-02, p.382, or the Discovery Channel news site .
- Deepsea and shallow reefs formed by microbial oxidation of methane: In the 9-Aug-2002 issue of Science (p.1013), Michaelis et al. discuss how microbes may play a role in forming carbonate rocks and reefs by this process: CH4 (methane) + SO4 + Ca --> CaCO3 (rock) + H2S +H2O
- Expedition explores massive gas hydrates off Oregon : a deepsea drilling project was completed in early September to assess gas hydrates off the Oregon coast. These are deposits of frozen methane that contain (in total) more energy than all known oil deposits (see below for more information on these deposits).
- Undersea montoring network funded for Monterey Bay: Quote from the press release : "...the network will consist of undersea cables and docking stations to provide power and high-speed data links for a variety of oceanographic devices.....this network will allow real-time, continuous, long-term monitoring of conditions beneath the surface of the bay." This includes the deepsea, as one cable will be at 4000ft (1200m). See also News Item 1 under year 2000 below.
- Naked retinas of hydrothermal-vent crabs may have evolved to detect the weak light produced by the vents. Jinks et al. report in Nature 7-Nov-02 (p. 30 and 68) that the larval crabs, which live in the plankton and not at the vents, have normal compound eyes, but as the animals mature, the eyes become non-optical amorphous naked retinas. These cannot form images but may have much better ability to detect faint light.
- Giant gelatinous deepsea octopus , the largest known of this type of animal, was trawled up in March 2002 off New Zealand. Read about it and see a photo at the BBC news website .
- Whipnose anglerfish in the deep was caught on video, surprisingly swimming upside down , probing the sediment with its long dorsal fin (Oct. 2002). See Science News 162:262 , or the original video at WHOI Deepsea Observatory site (look for "gigantactinid" fish).
- Oil tanker sinks to the abyssal plain off Spain (19 Nov 2002). Lying at 3.5km deep, the wreck of the Prestige tanker caused a massive oil-spill disaster on the coast of Spain and France. Plans are being made to pump the remaining oil from the wreck, from a depth never before attempted. See New Scientist 14-Dec.-02 p.15.
- Gas hydrates (frozen natural gas and water) are found in huge quantities in deepsea sediments. New studies ( Nature 12-Dec-02 p.622 and 656) suggest that some of these deposits may melt (due to global warming) and escape the seafloor along faultlines. This is of concern since natural gas (methane) is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.
- Mysterious deep-sea sound recorded again in June 2002: first heard in 1997 on the US Navy's deep-sea submarine-tracking hydrophone network, this mysterious sound from the abyss is thought to be from a huge unknown animal.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- How do larvae of hydrothermal-vent animals find new homes? Marsh et al. report in Nature 411:77 ( 3-May-2001 ) on the potential for dispersal of giant-tubeworm larvae, which can survive about 38 days.
- "Probing Gas Hydrates" --a review article on the huge quantities of frozen natural gas in the deepsea in American Scientist , Vol 89 ( May-June 2001 ), p.244-251. For more detail on this huge fossil-fuel reservoir, see below .
- NOAA Monitors Eruption off Oregon coast: Apr. 6, 2001 : an eruption on the ridge off Oregon and N. California was detected by the naval hydrophone/sonar network
- First pictures released from hydrothermal vents in the Indian ocean (Mar-May 2001) : start at the WHOI DIVE and DISCOVER website .
- The osmolyte TMAO of deepsea animals protects several proteins against high pressure: work in our laboratory reported in J. Exp. Zool. 289:172 (Feb. 2001). For more information, see Research in our Laboratory (go to Main Contents & select HIGH PRESSURE).
- Giant tubeworms fix carbon as fast as plants : Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute report measurements in the lab showing that giant Riftia tubeworms (from hydrothermal vents) are among the fastest growing organisms on Earth. Using their symbiotic bacteria, they can fix carbon in the absence of sunlight as fast as many plants. See news story in the June 2 '01 New Scientist , p.12
- New type of hydrothermal vent at the Lost City is described in detail in the July-01 Nature p.127 and 145 . This site is unique because the vents are on old seafloor rather than new, and because spires and chimneys are carbonate rather than sulfide deposits found at other vents. The initial discovery was reported earlier--see item #5 in 2000 below.
- Amazing microbes that eat methane : bacteria capable of using methane in the absence of oxygen have been described at methane seeps in the deepsea off N. California. Methane trapped in deepsea sediments may be the dominant hydrocarbon energy source on earth, but it was previously thought that no microbes could use it without oxygen. See 20-July-01 Science , p. 418 and p484 . See my Methane Seeps page for details on this California site.
- Hot-vent microbe decoded : Diversa Corporation has deciphered the complete genetic code of Pyrolobus fumarii , a microbe that lives at the hottest known temperatures (up to 113 degrees C), 3.5 km deep in hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic. 90% of the microbe's 2000 genes have not been found in other microbes, and may have industrial applications. Reported in the Oct. 6, 2001 New Scientist , and on Diversa's website on Sept. 25 .
- New hydrothermal-vent communties in Indian Ocean found : Science News , 15-Sept-01 p. 165 and Science 294: 818, Oct. 26 '01 --reports on recent expeditions to the Indian Ocean ridge found hot vents, showing previously unknown species, including shrimps, mussels, anemones. The December '01 Discover magazine has a feature article on the expedition.
- Hydrothermal-vent bacteria may lead to better sunburn protection : New Scientist 3-Nov-01 reports that a French company is studying compounds from hydrothermal-vent bacteria that might protect human skin from damaging chemicals generated by excess sunlight exposure. The bacteria use these compounds to protect themselves from damaging free radicals generated at the vents.
- Hydrothermal-vent worm larvae are not heat-adapted : Science News 24-Nov-01 and 18-Oct-01 Nature report on a study by Gaill et al. on larvae of the vent worm Alvinella . The adult worm lives between 20 and 80 degrees C, but larvae only tolerate 2 to 14 degrees. At 2 degrees--the typical deepsea temperature away from vents--the larvae become dormant, and in this state they probably drift until encountering a warmer location.
- Weird deepsea squid with spaghetti-like arms that bend like having elbows, and sporting very large fins, has been spotted over the years, but never captured. It lives at 2,000 meters and deeper. The existence of this elusive species has now been documented by Dr. M. Vecchione of the Smithsonian, by collecting reports and photos from researchers and oilrig divers. See. Science News Dec.22/29 '01 p.390 and Science Dec. 21 . See PHOTOS at the MBARI web site.
- Arctic reveals volcanoes and hot springs under the ice : on the Gakkel Ridge under the polar ice cap, a US Coast Guard ship discovered volcanic activity and hot vents that may harbor new life forms -- Nov 2001
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Neptune's Net: Undersea Sensory Network planned : John Delaney of UW and Alan Chave of WHOI have proposed a sophisticated Internet-linked network of deepsea sensors, cameras, and autonomous subs (to be deployed off the Northwestern US and Canada, around active tectonic areas). Click the UW link at the beginning of this paragraph, and/or see the Dec. 16, 2000 issue of New Scientist .
- Methytaurine, a rare compound, is extremely high in cold-seep tubeworms : work in our lab reported in Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 73:629. (Dec. '00). For more information, see Research in our Laboratory (go to main CONTENTS & select High Pressure).
- Giant Bubbles of Deepsea Methane: can they sink ships? : see the Dec. 2, 2000 issue (p20) of New Scientist for evidence that monster bubbles of methane might be released from some deepsea sediments.
- Deepsea reveals gigantic landslides at time of dinosaur extinction : at 4000 meters deep off Bermuda, researchers from Texas A&M found fossils and massive sediments indicative of a huge landslide. The materials dates from 65 million years ago, the time when a large asteroid seems to have hit the Earth and triggered the great Cretaceous extinction. See the December issue of Geology
- Exotic vents found in undersea mountains : an Alvin expedition (Nov.-Dec. 2000) reports the discovery of a huge field of percolating hydrothermal vents, on an undersea mountain in the Atlantic where no vents were expected.
- Abyssal storms, breathtaking biota, and methane hydrates explored in the Gulf of Mexico (Oct. 2000). A research expedition encountered current storms in the deep sea, investigated gas hydrate deposits, and found new communities of animals.
- Methane-using microbes off Oregon : in methane-bearing sediments, two kinds of microbes that use methane for energy have been isolated. See the Oct. 5 Nature and Science News Oct-7-00, p. 231 .
- Rare deepsea corals wrecked by fishing : the Darwin Mounds, rare deep corals at 1000 m of Scotland, were discovered in 1998. At least 800 animals species live on coral mounds up to 6 m high. Trawls of deepsea fishing boats are destroying it. See New Scientist 23-Sept-00, p.15.
- Earthquakes alter hydrothermal vents and may thus affect the life around them. See this study by Johnson et al. on vents off the Washington coast, Science 14-Sept-00, p. 174.
- Noah's (& Gilgamesh/Utnapishtim's) Flood in the Black Sea? Pioneering deepsea explorer Bob Ballard has found evidence--remains of buildings in the sea bottom mud--that a catastrophic flood occurred in the Black Sea 7000 yrs ago. Initial evidence for this flood was originally found by W. Pitman and W. Ryan, who suggested it could be the source of the nearly identical babylonian (Gilgamesh/Utnapishtim) and biblical (Noah) legends of a great flood in the mideast (see their recent book, Noah's Flood : The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History ). See Nat'l Geographic expedition site for reports on the reconstructed flood and its relationship to the ancient legend.
- Origin of Life at Hydrothermal Vents? B. Rasumssen in Australia reports in Nature 405, p. 676, 2000 , finding possible microbial fossils in 3-billion-year-old vent deposits. See also 1999 and 1998 news below for more studies on vents and origins of life.
- Life Below the Bottom : is the greatest repository of life on earth in the crust under the seafloor? See the June 2000 issue of Scientific American
- First thermophilic eubacterium from a hydrothermal vent has been isolated and grown: see Nature 20-Apr-00 p. 835.
- Unearthly Microbe : A new species of archaea has been isolated from deepsea hot vent water. Named Saganella after Carl Sagan, this microbe is unusual in that it can survive from room temperature to 90C and grow from 50 to 90C. Most life thrives well only in a narrow temperature range due to thermal effects on biomolecules. J. Baross and team of U.Washington reported this finding at the Feb. AAAS meeting; news report is in Science 3-Mar-00, p.1580 .
- The oldest known marine invertebrate may be a hydrocarbon-seep tubeworm in the Gulf of Mexico (reported by Bergquist et al., Nature 403:499 (Feb. 3, 2000 ); see NY Times article.
- The deepest known colony of shellfish has been reported by a Japanese expedition, at 7326 m in the Japan Trench. They live off bacteria which in turn life off seeping sulfides released by tectonic subduction forces. See New Scientist 25 Dec99/1 Jan00, p. 17, or Marine Ecol. Progress Series 190, p.17 .
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Researchers at the University of Calif. Museum of Paleontology report that some ichthyosaurs (which lived 90 to 250 million yrs ago) had eyes up to 10 inches in diameter, and bones damaged by the bends, suggesting that they sometime took dives into deep water. See the Dec. 21 '99 New York Times article or Nature 16-Dec-99 p.747
- The Osmolyte TMAO of deepsea fish stabilizes an enzyme under pressure : work in our lab is described in Dec. 11 '99 New Scientist (p.22) . We also report finding record high levels of TMAO in several groups of deepsea fishes, and in shrimps, crabs, and other invertebrates: The Biological Bulletin , 196:18-25, 1999 . For more information, see Research in our Laboratory (go to Main Contents & select HIGH PRESSURE).
- Slowdown of Antarctic Deep Water Formation? --an article in the Nov. 5 '99 Science (p.1132, and news story p.1061) provides evidence that the sinking of cold water off Antarctica, which provides the abyss with some of its oxygenated water and removes CO2 from the surface, may be slowing down.
- Flammable Ice --an article in the Nov. '99 Scientific American (p.77; no internet article) describes in more detail the methane-hydrate ices of the deepsea, their potential use and dangers to the environment (see also other methane hydrate articles below ).
- Toxic metals from hydrothermal vents --especially mercury--have been found in relatively shallow water (200m) off New Zealand. See Nature 401, p.755 (Oct. 21, '99) or Geology 27, p.931 ('99).
- Diseases from the Deep --an article in the June '99 Scientific American (p.22) describes how pathogenic microbes can spread for hundreds of miles via deepsea currents.
- Dumping CO 2 into the Abyss --an article in the 15-May-99 issue of New Scientist (p.14) describes proposals to inject carbon dioxide into the deep sea, in order to slow global warming. At great depths, liquid CO 2 is denser than water and should stay put. But effects on abyssal life are unknown.
- Deep-sea Diet? --the 14-May-99 issue of Science (p.1139 and 1174) discusses evidence that food supply to the deep Northeastern Pacific is declining, though paradoxically the oxygen consumption of the seafloor fauna has not changed.
- Deep-sea Eyes : the 27-Mar-99 issue of New Scientist has an article on the unusual eyes of deep-sea fishes .
- VENT GLOW Mechanism Solved? : Researchers D. Tapley and M. Shick may have found what makes the mysterious glow of the deepsea hydrothermal vents. Reported in the 20-Mar-99 New Scientist , their work shows that reactions of sulfide in vent water with oxygen in seawater are luminescent.
- Suckers as Light Organs : Johnsen et al. show in the 11-Mar-99 issue of Nature (p113) that some deep-sea octopods have suckers that emit light, perhaps for communication and/or luring prey.
- Submersible Lights Damage Deep-Sea Eyes? : Herring et al. show in the 11-Mar-99 issue of Nature (p116) that eyes of deep Atlantic hydrothermal-vent shrimp are often severely damaged, possibly due to the intense light of research submersibles.
- Sinking a ship onto the abyssal plain : Feb. 99: a grounded ship on the Oregon coast will be towed and sunk to the abyssal plain. See McGrawHill site on the environmental issues.
UPDATE , Mar. 3-onwards: in a raging storm, the ship tore loose from its tow line, ran aground again; then it was re-towed to sea and sunk with several rounds of explosives and a torpedo.
- Huge Undersea Meteor Crater , 150 million years old, found off Scandinavia; click for full BBC report
- DEEP-DIVING MAMMALS : a new method of seeing what a deep-diving seal does has been developed at Texas A&M, using a tiny camera strapped to the animals' backs. See Discovery Channel story on the Critter Cam
- ORIGIN OF LIFE: did life begin at hydrothermal vents in the sea? 1) Japanese researchers have created an artificial vent, and shown that simple proteins can be synthesized abiotically. See Science v.283, p.831, or New Scientist 13-Feb-99 p.19. The Jan. 9, 1999 issue of Science News reviews the evidence (p24). Also see 1998 news below for other articles and links.
For recent evidence AGAINST this hypothesis, see the 8-Jan-99 issue of Science (p.155 and 220). Galtier et al. extrapolate thermal stabilities of ribosomes to ancient archaebacterial ancestors, and conclude they could NOT have worked in hydrothermal vents.
- DEEP-SEA REPRODUCTION: Fujiwara et al. ( Deep-Sea Research 45:1881, 1998) document that elevated temperature can trigger spawning in cold-seep clams at 1,100 m deep; cues for reproduction in the deep see have been largely undiscovered before this. A news story on this is in the 21-Jan-99 issue of Nature, p. 205.
- UNDERSEA VOLCANOES and MEGAPLUME "HURRICANES" . The March '99 issue of DISCOVER features the discovery of giant hurricane-like plumes of spinning hot water spewed from undersea volcanic eruptions off Oregon. These plumes may help larvae of hydrothermal-vent habitats disperse to new sites. Earlier articles on this topic can be found in New Scientist , 12-Dec-98 (p30) and Science 15-May-98 (v.280:1034-35). A website on the volcanic eruption involved in this study is found at NOAA's Axial Seamount Page.
- Life in Deep-sea Low-Oxygen Zones is described by L.Levin in the Sept.-Oct. 2002 issue of American Scientist .Large areas of the deep sea have very low oxygen, due to 1) the lack of light for photosynthesis; 2) low circulation of oxygenated water from the surface, and 3) large amounts of decaying organic material falling from the surface waters (the decaying process uses up oxygen). The article describes what kinds of life can exist in these areas.
(most recent items at end of list!)
- Fishing Trawls Damage the Deepsea Floor --see link on this page for 2005 update
- Deep-Sea Aquarium--Dec. 1998: The Monterey Bay Aquarium & Research Institute has announced, after many years of testing, the perfection of a public-viewing tank for deep-sea animals. See the Dec. 22, 1998, issue of the NY Times (article with photos). And go straight to the Monterey Bay Aquarium DeepSea page for pictures of living deepsea animals.
- Deepsea Natural Gas and Oil--Nov. 1998 Scientific American has an article called "Natural Oil Spills" which shows maps and pictures of the oil seeps and gas hydrate formations , and worms that live in them, in them. For more information on the worms, see New Scientist "Extreme Worms" article, July 25 '98. And Science News 14-Nov.-98 reviews the occurrence and potential human of the vast amounts of methane hydrates in the deepsea and beneath the surface. A general description these hydrates can be found at the USGS Gas Hydrates-New Frontier Page.
- Origins of Life: Did life first evolve on earth at the hydrothermal vents ? Does this give clues to possible life on other worlds such as Europa? For a recent perspective on this, see Science , Apr. 1, 1998; Science July 31, 1998 (p.627&670). Also: in July '98, C. Huber and G. Wachtershauser demonstrate that minerals of hot springs may have catalyzed the first prebiotic protein synthesis ( Science 31-July-98, p627). In Sept. '98, researchers from the Carnegie institute reported ammonia, a key building block of life, at the vents (news story: Science , 25-Sept-98, p1936; article: Nature late Sept. '98).
- Chlorophyll in Eyes of Deep-Sea Fish : R. H. Douglas et al. report ( Nature 4-June-98, p423; and New Scientist 6-June-98, p16) that midwater dragonfish have chlorophyll in their retinas that help them see red light. Red light normally does not exist in the midwater twilight as red wavelengths are absorbed strongly by water (and blue weakly, hence the ocean's color). Thus most deep-sea animals have lost the ability to sense red. But dragonfish have photophores that can make red light, which they use to illuminate prey. This allows the dragonfish's light to be virtually invisible to all but itself (a "sniperscope").
- Chemistry and Biology of the Oceans : The July 10, 1998 issue of Science has a special section on this topic, which includes deep-sea vents.
- Fawlty Towers--July 1998: Researchers with the black-smoker expedition sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, the Univ. of Washington, and NASA, retrieved an intact hydrothermal-vent smoker chimney (from the "Fawlty Towers" site). See New Scientist 1-Aug-98, p21 and the U. Washington Press Release ; and PBS's NOVA page on this expedition
- Underwater Avalanches : In the Mar. 26, 1998 issue of Nature , Rothwell and colleagues report detecting evidence of giant landslides that have drastically altered abyssal plains. These may be triggered by gas hydrates (see 1997 news for more on these hydrates).
- Whale Falls : At the Feb. '98 Ocean Sciences meeting, Craig Smith of U. Hawaii reported that whale carcasses sinking to the deep provide a sudden feast for a variety of abyssal animals--hagfish, crabs, sharks that eat the remains, and worms, mussels and others that live off bacterial decomposition and chemosynthesis. The carcasses become a temporary habitat with more species than a hydrothermal vent. Reported in Science Vol 279, Feb. 27, 1998
- How hot can animal life live? In Feb. '98 Cary et al. report evidence that a hydrothermal vent worm can tolerate hotspring water up to 80 o C in the deep sea (though others have since challenged the evidence). See World's most Heat-tolerant animal article or the Feb. 5, 1998 issue of Nature .
1996 - 97 NEWS
(most recent items at end of list!)
- TMAO (an osmolyte) is very high in deepsea fishes : initial discovery in our lab reported in J. Exper. Zool. 279:386-391 . We also show that TMAO helps stabilize one enzyme's function against pressure disturbance. For more information, see Research in our Laboratory (go to Main Contents & select HIGH PRESSURE).
- Undersea Mud Volcanoes and gas hydrates with unique lifeforms reported Feb. 1997
- Stunning 3-D images of the seafloor reported by Scientific American June 1997
- Creation of New Deepsea hot springs witnessed in 1996
- Life in the Heat : In the Feb. 14, 1997 issue of SCIENCE , it was reported that archaebacterial (archaeal) life had been found living in 113 o C water in hydrothermal vents off the Azores--the hottest record yet for life.