25 deg 19.2S
Longitude: 70 deg 02.4E
Wind Direction: NE
Wind Speed: 18 Knots
Sea State 4
Swell(s) Height: 10-12 Foot
Sea Temperature: 79°F (26.1°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1011.2 MB
Visibility: 18+ Nautical Miles
polychaete worm is one of the largest we have seen crawling at the base
of the black smoker chimneys
Daily Update: Hydrothermal vent microbes
By Amy Nevala
curious-looking crabs, mussels and shrimp now on board Knorr are
under a lot of scrutiny, and so are another group of organisms,
better known as bacteria, make life possible at hydrothermal
microbes, there would be no food for shrimp. No shrimp means
no food for anemones, crabs and fish. And so it goes up the food
days ago, microbiologist Anna-Louise Reysenbach ground up a chunk
of the sulfide rock we collected at the black smoker chimneys.
Placing the grounds in test tubes, she cooked them in a small
oven for 24 hours to see if anything would grow.
When she put the cooked sample under a microscope, she saw that it was crowded
with microbial creatures she affectionately calls bugs. In fact,
they are much smaller than a bug - to them a mosquito eye would be gigantic.
Anna-Louise specializes in microbes. The research she and fellow microbiologist
Dorothee Gotz do here in the Indian Ocean will help them understand a specific
type of microbe called a thermophile.
Thermophiles love heat, and grow best when the temperature hovers between 113° and
234°F (45° and 113° C).
study thermophiles living at hot springs in places like Yellowstone
National Park as well as at hydrothermal vents. They have identified
hundreds of types. In the Indian Ocean, Anna-Louise says she
thinks she has already seen six to eight new varieties.
While we dont know the exact number of microbes, we do know this: There
are many, many more species of microbes at the hydrothermal vents than there
are animals, like shrimp, said Anna-Louise.
Why are a bunch of odd-shaped little creatures so
important? Thermophiles and other microbes deserve our respect
because they are our elders. They have lived here 3.5 billion years
longer than all other life forms. They were here long before dinosaurs.
Today they are critical in our lives. Though some
types of microbes cause disease, others are used for medical research
that could make us healthier. For example, the enzymes (or proteins)
taken from hydrothermal vent microbes are now used in the biotechnology
industry for genetic studies.
At the black smoker chimneys we located in the Indian
Ocean, the microbes cling to minerals within the sulfide rock.
This rock is porous like a sponge, so hot water from the vents
shoots through it, delivering food to the microbes. Its
not a complicated diet: hydrogen for energy, carbon for carbohydrates, plus a
pinch of oxygen, sulfate, nitrate or iron.
Its like they live in a continual Jacuzzi, said Anna-Louise, and
they just sit there eating their microbial gourmet dinner from the hot hydrothermal
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