Scientists have discovered a new marine ecosystem in the hydrothermal vents of a volcano on the East Pacific Rise off Central America.
The discovery was made using an ROV during a 30-day expedition to the area aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor (too).
The new ecosystem comprises a range of chemosynthetic bacteria, snails and worms, all living in water that is 75F/25C warm at the crushing depth of 2,500m/8,202ft. The discovery is all the more stunning since the area has been studied extensively in the past, but this is the first time scientists started looking for animals under the volcanic hot springs.
According to the expedition leader Dr. Monika Bright, from the University of Vienna:
“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.”
While Dr. Jyotika Virmani, the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s executive director, added:
“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. This truly remarkable discovery of a new ecosystem, hidden beneath another ecosystem, provides fresh evidence that life exists in incredible places. Schmidt Ocean Institute is proud to have provided a platform for Dr. Bright and her team to gather new insights into these systems that may be vulnerable to deep-sea mining.”