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New Hydrothermal Vent Fields Discovered on Mid-Atlantic Ridge
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, April 23, 2023 @ 10:00 AM (EST)

This bigfin squid was seen at a depth of approximately 6,500 feet at Puy Des Folles Seamount at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
 

A multidisciplinary team of scientists from the U.S., Canada, and France has discovered three new hydrothermal vent fields along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the world’s longest underwater mountain range. The vents, which were around 6,500 feet deep, were teeming with life, including a rare sighting of a bigfin squid and huge swarms of shrimp. The discoveries were made by autonomous, remotely operated underwater vehicles deployed from the Falkor (too), Schmidt Ocean Institute’s newly launched research vessel. Around 65 square miles of seafloor was mapped at one-meter scale resolution—an area roughly the size of Manhattan Island.

“This cruise exceeded expectations with the discovery of so many amazing hydrothermal vents vibrant with life,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute. Within the vents, seawater that is chemically altered through water–rock interactions at high temperatures is expelled through geological formations called chimneys. These fluids can appear like hazy “smoke” or shimmering pools. The tallest black smokers chimney was about 65 feet high. Species found on vents typically live off chemical energy rather than energy from sunlight, which is nonexistent at these extreme depths. Scientists do not yet understand how such deep-sea ecosystems function and what role they play for cycling carbon.

The R/V Falkor (too)’s next expedition—exploring deep-sea coral—began on April 17th.
 

A mapping Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is recovered to the R/V Falkor (too). The AUV was equipped with multiple sensors to produce 1-meter-scale seafloor bathymetry maps and detect plume signals that indicate possible source areas for hydrothermal vents
 

This high-temperature hydrothermal vent field was discovered during the expedition on Puy des Folles Seamount in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
 

Within hydrothermal vents, seawater chemically altered through water–rock interactions at high temperatures is expelled through geological formations called chimneys
 

Many creatures at these sites—such as tube worms, mussels, or shrimps—usually have symbiotic relationships with chemosynthetic bacteria

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