The deepest place on the planet may also hold the clues to the origin of life on Earth.
The discovery of microbial mats — bizarre-looking, filamentlike clumps of microorganisms — living off chemicals from altered rocks 35,803 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean comes from samples and video collected by an unmanned lander, part of movie director James Cameron’s mission to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Researchers have speculated that a similar setup may have sparked the chemical steps that lead to life on Earth, and possibly elsewhere in the solar system.
Researchers estimate that more than 14,000 tubeworms live in this ’bush’ discovered at an extremely rare hybrid hydrothermal vent — methane seep site in the deep sea.
"We do think that this chemistry could be the roots for metabolism," said Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "It could be the driving engine that leads to the emergence of life," he said. "Perhaps not just here, but also on worlds like Europa," an icy moon of Jupiter.
Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger expedition made dives to the New Britain Trench and the Mariana Trench in the southwestern Pacific Ocean between Jan. 31 and April 3, with one manned dive to Mariana’s Challenger Deep, the dark, flat pool that scientists now know houses a surprising array of life. A peek at results from the expedition were presented to a packed audience here Tuesday (Dec. 4) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
The filmmaker journeyed inside a steel sphere encased in foam — dubbed the Deepsea Challenger — built to withstand the crushing pressures below the ocean’s surface. The expedition traveled with two unmanned seafloor "landers" — large contraptions hoisted over the side of a ship and dropped to the seafloor. Once on the bottom, bait attached to the lander lured seafloor creatures to the craft, and a suite of instruments took samples, photographs and data.
When he emerged, Cameron told reporters the view was "bleak" and "looked like the moon." But scientists who examined data collected during the deep dives, both manned and unmanned, soon discovered there was life in the coldest, darkest sea.
Bizarre, never-before seen creatures
Along with the discovery of thriving deep-sea mats, several new species swam by the expedition’s high-definition cameras and into its collection tubes. Scientists are now analyzing bacteria and other organisms brought back to the surface.
Giant, 7-inch-long amphipods, a shrimplike crustacean that may scavenge fallen logs in the trench,were trapped at nearly 7 miles below the surface in Challenger Deep and hauled back to the ship. Tests reveal the creatures contain compounds that help tissues and proteins function better at high pressure, including scyllo-inositol. The compound is identical to a drug used in clinical trials to break down the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, said Doug Bartlett, a microbiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Some 20,000 microbes from the trench are being picked over and will undergo genetic analysis, he said. There were also abundant numbers of xenophyophores, a giant amoeba that is among the largest individual cells in existence.
Galaxy Poll: 86 per cent of Australians want childhood vaccination to be compulsory? 2015-04-17 23:33
Australians want Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make childhood vaccination compulsory and close loopholes that allow vaccine refusers to put all children at risk.
An exclusive national Galaxy poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed overwhelming support to ensure every child is vaccinated.
The highest support for compulsory jabs is in South Australia, where 90 per cent support the call.
The poll ...
Eye in the sky: Local police now using drones to spy on citizens 2015-04-17 22:09
The Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's Office is doing something that no other agency in Harris County is believed to have done yet: Use drones to help fight crime.
It's an eye in the sky for law enforcement, without giving up the element of surprise.
"It could absolutely save lives," says Constable Alan Rosen.
Rosen says the agency's two new $1,200 drones, which ...
New Zealander of the Year: refuse vaccines, lose money 2015-04-17 22:47
Following in the footsteps of Australia, 2014 New Zealander of the Year, Dr. Lance Oâ€™Sullivan, wants to punish people who donâ€™t get vaccinated.
The New Zealand Herald (4/15) reports:
â€œA leading New Zealand doctor has called on the Government to follow Australiaâ€™s example to cut child welfare payments to families who do not vaccinate their children, saying the policy would help protect ...
Iris Scanner Identifies a Person 40 Feet Away 2015-04-17 22:20
Police traffic stops are in the news again, tragically, sparking a new round of discussion on whether and how to outfit police with cameras and other technology.
For several years now, researchers at Carnegie Mellon Universityâ€™s CyLab Biometrics Center have been testing an iris recognition system that can be used to identify subjects at a range of up to 40 feet.
Yes, You Can Catch Insanity 2015-04-17 22:29
One day in March 2010, Isak McCune started clearing his throat with a forceful, violent sound. The New Hampshire toddler was 3, with a Beatles mop of blonde hair and a cuddly, loving personality. His parents had no idea where the guttural tic came from. They figured it was springtime allergies.
Soon after, Isak began to scream as if in pain ...