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Thermal Vent Communities In Antarctica

  1. Jan 11, 2012 #1

    LURCH

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    Apparently, British researchers have discovered thermal vent ecosystems in the Antarctic Ocean.

    Of particular interest (to me, at least) was the discrepancy of species found around these events vs. thermal vents in all the other oceans of the world. There has always been some mystery as to how organisms that cannot survive more than a few yards away from a vent can spread from one vent to another. The fact that some species from around the world are found in the Antarctic, while others are not, may suggest more than one method of dispersion. For example, perhaps some eggs or spores hitch a ride on larger organisms, which are known to cross the southern current, while others drift across the open spaces.

    What do you think?
     
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  3. Jan 11, 2012 #2

    Ryan_m_b

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    This is an interesting article about how a group of marine biologists were lucky enough to be observing some hydrothermal vents when an eruption occurred. This presented a fantastic opportunity to observe how life around the vents would repopulate; curiously enough alongside organisms from nearby vents they observed species that had travelled for hundreds of kilometres. They don't seem to have an exact answer to how this occurred but the prevailing hypothesis seems to be a combination of "jets" along the ocean floor, eddies of huge (tens of kilometres) whirlpools and a longer lived/more versatile larval stage.
     
  4. Jan 11, 2012 #3

    LURCH

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    Thanks for that link. Some pretty interesting stuff.
     
  5. Jan 16, 2012 #4

    LURCH

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    Having had time to re-read and digest the information in that link, I have become more convinced that what we shoud be looking for is (at least) two different methods of transport. In that article, creatures from nearby vents arrived alongside others from great distances. In the Antarctic, some organisms appear to have migrated in from elsewhere, while others could not. The main difference between migrating into the Antarctic and migrating great distances elsewhere in the oceans is (according to the article in the OP) the great circumpolar current running through the Southern seas. This would suggest that some organisms travel at the mercy of the currents, while others do not. All the methods proposed in the Daily Galaxy article are means for exploiting current movements, and I can't see a way for that to account for the presence of familiar organisms in the Antarctic comunities.

    I also noticed some people are speculating online that these extremophiles actually travel through the magma from one vent to another. I consider myself a fairly open-minded guy, but...*

    Still, this is an exciting find; I look forward to follow-up research.
     
  6. Jan 16, 2012 #5

    Ryan_m_b

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    Maybe not magma as that is 5->10 times the temperature of the highest hyperthermophiles however we are only just beginning to uncover new ecologies of extremophiles that live deep in the Earth's crust.
     
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