Deep Ocean: Hot Spots

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The bottom of the ocean can seem to be a barren place – seemingly devoid of life. But there are oases of life in the deep ocean and scientists call them ‘hotspots’. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“A biological hotspot is a region in the ocean where there are dense communities of organisms or an area with intense biological activity of some kind.”

Jeff Drazen is a marine biologist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

“There are several different types of biological hotspots that are found in the deep sea. The most well-known are hydrothermal vents, where you have geysers of black fluids gushing out of pipes in the sea floor and there are clusters of these bright red tubeworms growing around them, very, very large clams, crabs, just abundant animals concentrated around these fluids seeping up out of the sea floor. There are much less dramatic biological hotspots around what are called ‘seeps’, and this is where fluids just kind of ooze up out of the mud. Usually there’s methane gas and sulfides that are trapped down below the mud, and these slowly seep up out into the sea water. And you still get tubeworms and clams and a variety of animals, which can use, via bacteria, these substances to produce their own food. And, in addition, you have sea mounts, these are just underwater mountains, and they’re typically current-swept, and those currents bring fresh nutrients, and you get just a very dense community, which is just is not typical of the deep sea – things like sponges and soft corals, similar to what you might see on a coral reef.”

There have been some surprising discoveries in oceanic hotspots, and we’ll hear about them in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

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Deep Ocean: Hot Spots

Hear about three very different kinds of deep-sea communities and what causes them to form.
Air Date:06/25/2004
Scientist:
Transcript:


music

The bottom of the ocean can seem to be a barren place - seemingly devoid of life. But there are oases of life in the deep ocean and scientists call them 'hotspots'. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"A biological hotspot is a region in the ocean where there are dense communities of organisms or an area with intense biological activity of some kind."

Jeff Drazen is a marine biologist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

"There are several different types of biological hotspots that are found in the deep sea. The most well-known are hydrothermal vents, where you have geysers of black fluids gushing out of pipes in the sea floor and there are clusters of these bright red tubeworms growing around them, very, very large clams, crabs, just abundant animals concentrated around these fluids seeping up out of the sea floor. There are much less dramatic biological hotspots around what are called 'seeps', and this is where fluids just kind of ooze up out of the mud. Usually there’s methane gas and sulfides that are trapped down below the mud, and these slowly seep up out into the sea water. And you still get tubeworms and clams and a variety of animals, which can use, via bacteria, these substances to produce their own food. And, in addition, you have sea mounts, these are just underwater mountains, and they’re typically current-swept, and those currents bring fresh nutrients, and you get just a very dense community, which is just is not typical of the deep sea - things like sponges and soft corals, similar to what you might see on a coral reef."

There have been some surprising discoveries in oceanic hotspots, and we'll hear about them in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music