Mariana Trench: Teeming With Microbial Life

The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean in the world.  It is situated on the west of the Pacific Ocean, east of the Mariana Islands.  It is close to where the volcanic chain of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana rise, ignited by the collision of plates under the ocean.  The Pacific tectonic plate is an old area of the ocean’s crust.  The ocean floor plunges down so fast that it’s almost an endless hole.  The Mariana Trench has created the deepest point on the Pacific crust, going seven miles down the dark, cold waters.  The Pacific tectonic plate mimics the beginnings of life on earth.  These islands is a favorite research location for scientists as they try to answer questions of evolution, ancient marine life, tectonic movements and the earth’s geological history.

In 2010, researchers sent a robotic explorer down the Mariana Trench to collect samples of sediments from the sea floor.  What they found were primitive single-celled organisms thriving on plentiful supply of dead plants and creatures that drop down the surface.  Marine biologist Dr. Robert Turnewitshc said, “The deepest parts of the deep sea are certainly not dead zones.”  Once thought to be uninhabited by marine life, the 11 kilometer deep trench has high microbial activity. This discovery demonstrates that living things can adapt to dark surroundings, freezing temperatures and drastic water pressure.

Decomposing ocean matter drift down and get trapped in the walls of the trench.  It supplies the fresh food for the organisms.  Dr. Turnewitshc also concluded that the deepest ocean areas may have a role in global marine carbon cycle.  He added, “The fact that large amounts of organic matter that contain carbon accumulate in these trenches also mean that they play an important role in the removal of carbon from the ocean and overlying atmosphere.”  He was referring to a particular zone in the Pacific trenches called Hadal.

Film director James Cameron dove into the bottom of the Marian Trench in 2012, adding more perspective of the Pacific deep.  He spoke of the trench as an alien scene with barren terrain.  Cameron’s team found giant amoeba measuring more than 4 inches and creatures that look like shrimps.  The giant amoebas belong to the xenophyophore class and they’re at extreme abundance on the sea floor along with numerous microbes.   The video clip of Cameron’s dive will be released as a National Geographic documentary.

Article publié pour la première fois le 01/04/2013

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