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Venting Concerns

Exploring and protecting deep-sea communities

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10:43am, October 3, 2006

Researchers cruising the South Pacific between Tonga and Fiji study huge snails that, aided by an abundance of bacteria housed in their gills, feed off plumes of metal-rich compounds at active hydrothermal vents. Scientists working off the California coast use chemical-sniffing probes, robotically driven subs, and seafloor-tethered temperature sensors to watch flows of lava pave over a once-thriving ecosystem at hydrothermal vents several kilometers below the ocean's surface. And in waters off Papua New Guinea, a mining company analyzes metal deposits around inactive, underwater volcanoes that contain, on average, 10 times as much copper as typical ores on land do.

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