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Antarctica: British researchers explore deep-sea geothermal vents in the Scotia Sea

This shows hydrothermal vent fauna at East Scotia Ridge taken by the deep-diving ROV Isis.Credit: Natural Environment Research Council

Hydrothermal vent fauna at East Scotia Ridge taken by the deep-diving ROV Isis. Photo courtesy Natural Environment Research Council, UK.

Science expedition features lively and informative blog

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even in the most remote and darkest depths of the ocean, life finds a way to flourish — in some cases by clustering around geothermal vents where unusual geochemical processes nurture communities of fantastic organisms that can thrive without sunlight more than two miles down.

A team of researchers from the UK is currently studying a series of black smokers, white smokers, cold seeps and volcanic craters at the East Scotia Ridge at the southern end of the South Sandwich Islands. The area is a complex tectonic system of black smokers, white smokers, cold seeps and volcanic craters. The animal communities at these chemosynthetic habitats are of particular interest, so the scientists will use a deep-diving ROV called Isis to film and sample how these animals interact with the vents.

The expedition will be led by Prof. Paul Tyler, of the University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at the National Oceanography Centre. The explorations is being documented on a blog featuring videos and daily observations about their work in the world’s most remote ocean: http://hotventscoldocean.blogspot.com. Continue reading

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Study shows ocean acidification impacts to sea snails

Corrosive waters in Southern Ocean destroying pteropod shells

Pteropods swimming in the Scotia Sea. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Numerous lab experiments have already shown that some shell-forming ocean species will likely suffer as the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide and becomes increasingly acidic.

Now, a new study based on 2008 research in the Scotia Sea shows that the shells of tiny marine snails called pteropods are already being dissolved by ocean acidification where atmospheric CO2 being absorbed by the sea is exacerbating acidic conditions resulting from upwelling of cold water from deep below the surface.

The tiny animals are a valuable food source for fish and birds and play an important role in the oceanic carbon cycle. Pteropods are open-ocean animals, moving about by using water wings that evolved from their snail feet. Continue reading

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