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Hybrid 'hydrothermal seep' ecosystem found

Fri, 9th Mar 2012

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Here on Naked Oceans, we’ve covered stories before on deep sea hydrothermal vents. But these aren’t the only type of vent spewing mineral rich water into the deep sea.

Cold seeps, as the name suggests, don’t belch out plumes of hot water, but instead cooler water, that’s often rich in methane. Over the last three decades of research into deep sea vents, it was thought that cold seeps and hydrothermal vents were only found in separate, geologically distinct, areas of the ocean, and supported very different communities of life. Giant tube worm

But in recent years, they had been found in pretty close proximity, and now, a team led by Lisa Levin from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has found a ‘hybrid’ ecosystem in an area off Costa Rica, that suggests the presence of what they term a ‘hydrothermal seep’ system.

The team used the Alvin research submersible to take sediment samples, water temperature and composition measurements, and pictures to observe the fauna living at the base of Jaco Scar, a seamount on a tectonic plate that is moving underneath the adjacent one. Their results suggested a hybrid system, with species that were usually found at either vents or seeps coexisting perfectly happily.

They suggest that we may need to think of vent and seep ecosystems as being on a continuum and not just confined to one group or the other, and some other areas where these new hybrid hydrothermal seeps might be found… That’s all published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.



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