Previously Unknown ‘Lost World’ Discovered in Antarctica

Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents.

“Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy not from the Sun but from breaking down chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide,” said Professor Alex Rogers of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, who led the research. “The first survey of these particular vents, in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, has revealed a hot, dark, ‘lost world’ in which whole communities of previously unknown marine organisms thrive.”

 In the “hadal” zone, which at 11,000 meters is deeper than Mount Everest is high – the pressure rises to 1,000 bar, or a ton per square centimeter. And as there is practically no light, and plants cannot grow, there is little food. It offers a glimpse of what life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, might look like.For the first time, researchers led by the University of Oxford, University of Southampton and British Antarctic Survey, used a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean, where hydrothermal vents, including ‘black smokers’ reaching temperatures of up to 382 degrees Celsius, create a unique environment that lacks sunlight, but is rich in certain chemicals.

“What we didn’t find is almost as surprising as what we did,” said Professor Rogers. “Many animals such as tubeworms, vent mussels, vent crabs, and vent shrimps, found in hydrothermal vents in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, simply weren’t there.”

The team reports its findings in this week’s issue of the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology.

 

Source and Image: The Daily Galaxy