Scientists of the Schmidt Institute find a new ecosystem in East Pacific and explore the way deep-sea organisms make use of two habitats.
Deep sea exploration has been a massive topic of interest in the last few years. It has led to many exciting findings like undersea volcanoes off of Australia’s Cocos Keeling Islands having new forms of species and a previously unidentified deep-sea coral reef full of life. The latest one to join this string of discoveries is a whole new ecosystem beneath the seafloor. Schmidt Ocean Institute in its exploration has come across an ecosystem on the East Pacific Rise off Central America that species in the sea are utilizing along with their conventional habitat, as per Good News Network. It has given scientists hope that there might be many more such ecosystems in the deep trenches of the sea with numerous unidentified species.
To conduct this expedition, an international team of marine biologists and oceanographers was involved. Their expedition resulted in finding an ecosystem under the seafloor which was populated by worms, snails, and bacteria. They used an underwater robot and went through the volcanic crust to stumble upon these narrow cave systems. The ecosystem is structured so that animals are allowed to enter and exit the way they please. Scientists due to this discovery have concluded that when it comes to hydrothermal vents, habitats can be created both above and below the seafloor.
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Talking about the discovery, Jyotika Virmani, the Executive Director of Schmidt Ocean Institute says, “On land, we have long known of animals living in cavities underground and in the ocean of animals living in sand and mud, but for the first time, scientists have looked for animals beneath hydrothermal vents.” She added that the discovery of a new ecosystem is a clear indication that life can exist in the most incredible of places. The foundational species of this new ecosystem is tubeworms, as per observation.
In terms of how animals in the deep sea exist with two ecosystems, Dr. Bright, who led the expedition, says, “Our understanding of animal life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents has greatly expanded with this discovery. Two dynamic vent habitats exist. Vent animals above and below the surface thrive together in unison, depending on vent fluid from below and oxygen in the seawater from above.”
Another objective of the expedition was to find whether tube worms travel beneath hydrothermal vents to reproduce. This belief exists because the young forms of tubeworms are rarely seen in the water above the vent. The scientists used a special underwater robot, ROV SuBastian, to complete this objective. The robot's job was to glue mesh boxes over cracks and then a non-toxic red pigment was released into the box. This makes sure that the animals inside the box are colored. After some days, the boxes were removed and it was observed that some animals were uncolored. This implies that reproduction occurred and new animals came into being.
Wendy Schmidt, president and co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute emphasized the importance of the expedition, “The discoveries made on each Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition reinforce the urgency of fully exploring our ocean so we know what exists in the deep sea." She further added, “The discovery of new creatures, landscapes, and now, an entirely new ecosystem underscores just how much we have yet to discover about our ocean, and how important it is to protect what we don’t yet know or understand.”