TGIF: Marine Snow

From Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute…In the ocean, there are places where it looks like it is snowing. These magical places are near undersea volcanic activity. The snow particles are clumps of bacteria that use chemicals to make food. Chemicals they use include hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic to virtually all other life. Most other ecosystems on earth depend on organisms that require sunlight to create food. Vents release hot water, minerals, and chemicals from beneath hardened lava. The fluid is almost 30 degrees F warmer than the surrounding water. The bacteria live beneath the seafloor and are also released from the vent. These tiny one-celled microbes provide food for many animals. A thick mat of white bacteria builds up; little worms and crustaceans feed on it. Nearby, “black smoker” vents may form when vents spew minerals in water up to 750 degrees F. In time, an amazingly robust community with thousands of animals flourishes here. This video was recorded 480 km (300 miles) west of the Oregon coast at 1,516 m (4,974 ft) depth with remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts.

Dr. M (1720 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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