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Old 02-07-2013, 02:32 PM   #1
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Default Wood on the seafloor -- an oasis for deep-sea life

Wood on the seafloor -- an oasis for deep-sea life
Public release date: 22-Jan-2013
Contact: Dr. Christina Bienhold

Wood on the seafloor -- an oasis for deep-sea life
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Trees do not grow in the deep sea, nevertheless sunken pieces of wood can develop into oases for deep-sea life - at least temporarily until the wood is fully degraded. A team of Max Planck researchers from Germany now showed how sunken wood can develop into attractive habitats for a variety of microorganisms and invertebrates. By using underwater robot technology, they confirmed their hypothesis that animals from hot and cold seeps would be attracted to the wood due to the activity of bacteria, which produce hydrogen sulfide during wood degradation.

Many of the animals thriving at hydrothermal vents and cold seeps require special forms of energy such as methane and hydrogen sulfide emerging from the ocean floor. They carry bacterial symbionts in their body, which convert the energy from these compounds into food. The vents and seeps are often separated by hundreds of kilometers of deep-sea desert, with no connection between them.

For a long time it was an unsolved mystery how animals can disperse between those rare oases of energy in the deep sea. One hypothesis was...
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