Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor returned to Guam on Dec. 21 after a three-week expedition surveying the largely unexplored Mariana Back-Arc for life at depths greater than 13,000 feet using the organization’s new remotely operated underwater robotic vehicle, SuBastian.
In 2015, the team of scientists located new hydrothermal vents in the Mariana Back-Arc region, including evidence of recent lava flows. This year, the team returned to the vent systems to characterize water chemistry and biodiversity. The new results fill a gap in knowledge about the biogeography of the deep-sea ecosystems and have implications for how tectonic setting influences the composition of chemosynthetic animal communities worldwide.
Scientists suspect that some new species have been discovered but must await confirmation from further study. Observations show that newly discovered vent sites have an ecosystem that is characteristic of the Mariana Back-Arc, with some animal species found nowhere else on Earth.
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Photos courtesy of Schmidt Ocean Institute