In the abyss


A JAPANESE expedition has discovered a thriving colony of shellfish living on chemicals released from the seafloor at a depth of 7326 metres. It is the deepest colony ever found. Katsunori Fujikura of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center in Kanagawa and his colleagues explored the Japan Trench off the east coast of Japan. One plate of the Earth’s crust slides under another at the bottom of the trench, squeezing seafloor sediments to release sulphurous chemicals. These nourish the bacteria on which the bivalve molluscs feed. Food is scarce in the ocean’s depths. The researchers think that other colonies exploiting similar chains of nutrients may be waiting to be discovered (Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol 190,
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