Exploring and protecting deep-sea communities
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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