Wednesday, December 13

Ocean Creatures Living Without Light

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Throughout the centuries it has been well known that all living things need light in order to survive. Most scientists have always believed that all forms of life need sunshine in order to survive, until recently.

Many scientists always thought that because the deepest parts of the ocean had no sunlight it contained no life. But in 1977, two geologists aboard the Alvin descended 8,200 feet into the ocean near the Galapago’s Islands and made an amazing discovery. The two geologists reported seeing groups of giant clams, reefs of mussels, different colored crabs, huge pink fish, and 6 foot white tubeworms with beautiful red plumes.

Even more amazing was the discovery that many of the creatures lived off the hydrothermal vents. The hydrothermal vents are caused from volcanic activity with a temperature of (750 – 840 F, 400-450 C). With volcanic eruptions, crusts are formed when they hit the cold waters of (34-36 F, 1-2 C). This extreme mixing of water temperatures causes hydrogen sulfide to form rocks instantly and create black smokers.

Yet what is baffling is that hydrogen sulfide is usually poisonous to life. Just fleeting exposure to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause death or a loss of consciousness. What was discovered by Coleen Cavanaugh, a Harvard graduate, is that the hydrogen sulfide water contained bacteria that gave energy to the mysterious creatures. As well, Coleen Cavanaugh found that many of the mollusks had symbiotic bacteria in their gills which chemo synthesizes hydrogen sulfide.

Off the Gulf of Mexico it was discovered that several deep sea creatures can get their nutrition from methane which is found near hydrothermal vents. These new findings about life existing without light and near hydrothermal vents has left many unanswered questions. Some Astrobiologists and Astrogeologists suggest that the beginnings of life may have originated from hydrothermal activity.

The Beginnings of Life and Hydrothermal Vents:


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