"We were particularly excited to find compelling evidence for high-temperature venting at almost 5000m depth. We have absolutely zero microbial data from high-temperature vents at this depth," said Julie Huber, a scientist in the Josephine Bay Paul Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole. Huber and MBL postdoctoral scientist Julie Smith participated in this cruise to collect samples, and all of the microbiology work for this paper was carried out in Huber's laboratory. "With the combination of extreme pressure, temperature, and chemistry, we are sure to discover novel microbes in this environment," Huber added. "We look forward to returning to the Cayman and sampling these vents in the near future. We are sure to expand the known growth parameters and limits for life on our planet by exploring these new sites."
The Walsh plume also exhibited signals characteristic of a high temperature site, but with a chemical composition (notably the high methane-to-manganese ratio) typically found at a high temperature, ultramafic hosted "Type 2" vent site. The third site which the team have named Europa, after the moon of Jupiter most closely resembles the "Lost City" vent site in the mid-Atlantic ocean to date the only confirmed low-temperature "Type 3" site.
Half way through the six-day leg in which Nereus was converted into ROV mode, tropical storm Ida intervened and stopped the team from viewing or sampling the vent site. Though they had come within <250m of the vents at the seafloor, they had to ride out the storm for the last three days of the cruise and return to port frustrated. Happily, however, all was not lost - the research team shared their findings with an international team led by Jon Copley of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, who returned to
|Contact: Stephanie Murphy|
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution