As we learned on January 8, the scientists aboard the Atlantis are after more than just microbes living in the vents themselves. They’re also interested in microbes that have a symbiotic relationship with other vent animals. These Riftia tubeworms, for example, have a nice deal worked out—they provide bacteria living inside them with chemicals from the vent fluid, and the bacteria in turn make nutrients for their hosts. There’s a trick to collecting a tubeworm sample without damaging it, however. If Jason’s pilot taps the worm, it will duck down inside its protective tube to hide—giving the pilot a chance to grab the tip of the tube without crushing the worm inside. Once the worm is plucked from the rocks, time is of the essence. If the worms are stressed for a long period of time, they will send out hormones that change their overall body chemistry, making it difficult to analyze them in the lab. For that reason, researchers must send them up immediately on an elevator, as we’ll see in the next video.
This clip offers a rare view of samples leaving the ocean floor on an elevator.View video »
Watch Jason deploy a sampler, called a “colonizer,” on the sea floor. View video »
This clip offers a rare view of samples leaving the ocean floor on an elevator. View video »