James Cameron expedition finds weird deep-sea life
2012 12 07

By Becky Oskin | CBSNews




The deepest place on the planet may also hold the clues to the origin of life on Earth.

The discovery of microbial mats — bizarre-looking, filamentlike clumps of microorganisms — living off chemicals from altered rocks 35,803 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean comes from samples and video collected by an unmanned lander, part of movie director James Cameron’s mission to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Researchers have speculated that a similar setup may have sparked the chemical steps that lead to life on Earth, and possibly elsewhere in the solar system.


Researchers estimate that more than 14,000 tubeworms live in this ’bush’ discovered at an extremely rare hybrid hydrothermal vent — methane seep site in the deep sea.

"We do think that this chemistry could be the roots for metabolism," said Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "It could be the driving engine that leads to the emergence of life," he said. "Perhaps not just here, but also on worlds like Europa," an icy moon of Jupiter.

Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger expedition made dives to the New Britain Trench and the Mariana Trench in the southwestern Pacific Ocean between Jan. 31 and April 3, with one manned dive to Mariana’s Challenger Deep, the dark, flat pool that scientists now know houses a surprising array of life. A peek at results from the expedition were presented to a packed audience here Tuesday (Dec. 4) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The filmmaker journeyed inside a steel sphere encased in foam — dubbed the Deepsea Challenger — built to withstand the crushing pressures below the ocean’s surface. The expedition traveled with two unmanned seafloor "landers" — large contraptions hoisted over the side of a ship and dropped to the seafloor. Once on the bottom, bait attached to the lander lured seafloor creatures to the craft, and a suite of instruments took samples, photographs and data.

When he emerged, Cameron told reporters the view was "bleak" and "looked like the moon." But scientists who examined data collected during the deep dives, both manned and unmanned, soon discovered there was life in the coldest, darkest sea.

Bizarre, never-before seen creatures

Along with the discovery of thriving deep-sea mats, several new species swam by the expedition’s high-definition cameras and into its collection tubes. Scientists are now analyzing bacteria and other organisms brought back to the surface.

Giant, 7-inch-long amphipods, a shrimplike crustacean that may scavenge fallen logs in the trench,were trapped at nearly 7 miles below the surface in Challenger Deep and hauled back to the ship. Tests reveal the creatures contain compounds that help tissues and proteins function better at high pressure, including scyllo-inositol. The compound is identical to a drug used in clinical trials to break down the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, said Doug Bartlett, a microbiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Some 20,000 microbes from the trench are being picked over and will undergo genetic analysis, he said. There were also abundant numbers of xenophyophores, a giant amoeba that is among the largest individual cells in existence.

[...]


Read the full article at: cbsnews.com





Images: James Cameron’s Historic Deep-Sea Dive














Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Document Confirms British were Plotting to Invade Germay Before Germany Invaded Poland
2014 09 02
The declaration of war against Germany had nothing to do with Poland, and was in fact a brutal war of aggression launched for economic reasons against the peaceful German people. As you can see in Judea Declares War on Germany. From dailymail.co.uk: An early version of the ‘King’s Speech’ reveals Britain was preparing to declare war on Germany before Hitler invaded ...
Study Claims Cave Art Made by Neanderthals
2014 09 02
A series of lines scratched into rock in a cave near the southwestern tip of Europe could be proof that Neanderthals were more intelligent and creative than previously thought. The cross-hatched engravings inside Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar are the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art, according to a team of scientists who studied the site. The find is significant because ...
EU Nanny State to Ban Toasters, Kettles & Hair Dryers!
2014 09 02
"Despite arctic sea ice growing by 43%, the EU nanny state is set to ban toasters, hair dryers and kettles in the name of preventing global warming."
Nigeria launches new biometric ID card - brought to you by Mastercard
2014 09 02
Yesterday afternoon, president Goodluck Jonathan became the first recipient of Nigeria’s new national eID card, in a ceremony at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja. The cards will be issued to 13 million Nigerians as part of a pilot project, with the ultimate aim of producing a national identity management system (NIMS). Nigeria’s NIMS is an ambitious attempt to consolidate ...
LA Times Now Describing Illegal Aliens As ’Informal Workers’ Who ’Labor Unofficially’
2014 09 02
Via Weasel Zippers, we learned the Los Angeles Times has a new term for illegal aliens in the work force: they’re “informal workers,” and that doesn’t mean they don’t arrive on the job in a tuxedo. Times reporter Tiffany Hsu (a "UC Berkeley grad") began her Saturday story with the new I-word (and illegal immigrants also “labored unofficially” in "gray employment"): Informal ...
More News »