Life on the Ocean Floor: Antarctic Ocean Hydrothermal Vent Exploration

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A large sea anemone near Antarctic hydrothermal vent: Image courtesy of Professor Alex Rogers

New insights into the ocean life found in hydrothermal vents has been found in an excursion to the Antarctic seafloor.

Ongoing ocean exploration around hydrothermal vents near Antarctica has enabled teams of scientists to discover new species. Teams compiled by the University of Southampton, British Antarctic Survey, and the University of Oxford were able to explore the deep, dark seafloor environment near Antarctica via a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

Remotely Operated Vehicle and Ocean Exploration

It was through the aid of the ROV that researchers were able to discover new species of sea anemones, barnacles, yeti crab, starfish, and pale octopus.

Professor Alex Rogers of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology led the research, which also revealed the presence of a 7-armed sea-star, and the absence of vent shrimps, vent mussels, tubeworms, and vent crabs, which are commonly found living near hydrothermal vents in other oceans. A lack of these organisms along the Antarctic sea floor suggests the possibility that the Southern Ocean acts as a type of barrier to certain vent ocean life.

Ocean Life Near Hydrothermal Vents

Strange ocean creatures are often found living near hydrothermal vents, despite the lack of sunlight. These deep-ocean dwellers thrive in such areas, thanks to their ability to obtain energy through the breakdown of hydrogen sulphide, and don’t require a constant supply of energy from the sun to survive. This enables vent organisms to live in the deepest, darkest, and often hottest places along the ocean floor.

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