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 (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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