Scientists discovered in Antarctic waters deep community of organisms living in thermal springs — sulfurous hydrothermal sources, according to a paper published in the journal PLoS Biology.
Scientists from the UK, USA, Portugal and Spain have made this discovery as a result of a two-year study of Western Rift hydrothermal vents in the Scotia Sea (adjacent to Antarctica Atlantic) through controlled submersibles.
The researchers found crustaceans, molluscs and polychaete worms that exist at temperatures up to 383 degrees Celsius and at a depth of about 2.5 thousand meters, among which the most interesting new species of decapod crab genus Kiwa. Most of the species are endemic to the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean and are found nowhere else on the planet.
Based on this discovery, scientists are going to highlight the surveyed area of the Western Rift in the Scotia Sea as a distinct biogeographic provinces, the unique composition of species, the article says.
Ecosystems in the deep-sea hydrothermal vents attracted the attention of scientists in 1977. Organisms living at hydrothermal vents contain unique forms of life that exist in the hydrogen sulfide and having the ability to oxygen-free (anaerobic) respiration. According to scientists, the study of life of these creatures will help in the future to understand the mechanisms of the origin of life on Earth and possibly on other planets.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents (fluids), or "black smokers" are located at the boundaries of tectonic plates on the ocean floor, usually in deep ravines. Hydrothermal vents emit a jet of hot water, which rises from the Earth's clouds of insoluble particulate salts and oxides of metals, usually black.
They were first discovered in the Pacific Ocean about three decades ago. Most of the "black smokers" is located at a depth of 1.5 thousand to three thousand meters.