New search tool detects seawater changes from spewed chemicals
The deep, dark ocean bottom teems with far more oases of life than once thought.
Searching along the sunless seafloor where tectonic plates pull apart, regions known as spreading ridges, researchers discovered that heat-spewing hydrothermal vents are at least three to six times as abundant as previously assumed. The finding also significantly boosts the likely number of marine ecosystems huddled around vents, the researchers report in the Sept. 1 Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
“The common knowledge of vent field distribution — that they’re typically separated by tens or hundreds of kilometers — was not telling the whole story,” says study coauthor Edward Baker, an oceanographer at the University of Washington in Seattle. In reality, vents are spaced around three to 20 kilometers apart along spreading ridges, Baker and colleagues found.