Researchers discovered new species of shrimp that lives in the world’s deepest known volcanic vents where the water is warmer than 450 degrees Celsius (842 degree Fahrenheit) – hot enough to melt lead.
The seafloor vents are located 5km below the surface of the Caribbean, in the Cayman Trough, south of the Cayman Islands. Some 5,000 metres down, in a rift in the seafloor, exists a volcanic spring known as a ‘black smoker’, which shoots jets of mineral-rich water more than a kilometre into the ocean above.
The researchers unveiled a remarkable list of discoveries: a new found species of (mostly) eyeless shrimp which has a light-sensing organ on its back, evidence that the deepest vent may also be the hottest on the planet. The pale shrimp congregate in hordes – up to 2,000 shrimp per square metre – around the six-metre tall mineral spires of the vents. The researchers have named the shrimp Rimicaris hybisae, after the deep-sea vehicle that they used to collect them. The newly discovered shrimp is related to a species called Rimicaris exoculata, found at other deep-sea vents 4,000 kilometres away on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Researchers from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre in Southampton first investigated the vents in April 2010. The new discoveries announcement comes nearly two years after a team lead by marine geochemist Doug Connelly of Britain’s National Oceanography Centre and University of Southampton biologist Dr Jon Copley used a deep-diving robot submarine to became the first humans to glimpse an extraordinary sight 3 miles (5 kilometers) below them, at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. Details of the research have been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Although the scientists were not able to measure the temperature of the vents directly, these two features indicate that the world’s deepest known vents may be hotter than 450C, according to the researchers.
Dr Jon Copley, one of the leader of this research said, ‘Studying the creatures at these vents, and comparing them with species at other vents around the world will help us to understand how animals disperse and evolve in the deep ocean.’