Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Life Form Found in Cayman Trench

A marine expedition to the Cayman Trench has resulted in the gathering of first ever species of eyeless shrimp and white-tentacled anemones by scientists aboard the research vessel Atlantis. A 6cm long eyeless shrimp with a light sensing organ on its back was discovered by a group of scientists from the National Oceanography Centre. During a visit in 2009, the Cayman ridge found home to two seafloor chimneys - the Von Damm and the Piccard. These chimneys emit scorching seawater of 450 degree Celsius rich in minerals to support life never seen before. Scientists suspect these mineral-rich sea vents gave rise to the world's first organisms. The Cayman ridge is the deepest spreading ridge on Earth, plunging to nearly 20,000 feet in some places.

"Studying the creatures at these vents, and comparing them with species at other vents around the world; will help us to understand how animals disperse and evolve in the deep ocean," Dr. Jon Copley, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton said about the discovery.


A tube worm at the Von Damm site, the first ever spotted at a hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic. (The worms had been seen at cold seeps, but not the superheated vents.)CREDIT: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, MCR Expedition 2011.

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