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But just how big is this chemically-fueled ecosystem that survives entirely without oxygen? Microbes that get their energy from minerals, rather than from sunlight, are far from rare. The most well known of these so-called chemoautotrophic or chemosynthetic bacteria are those found at hydrothermal vents in the deep sea. Chemosynthetic microbes in salt marshes feed on decomposing plants and animals, which got their energy from sunlight.

Even deep-sea sediment is accumulated from an assortment of dead animals, plants, microbes and fecal pellets that relies on light energy. The oceanic crust microbes, on the other hand, rely entirely on non-oxygen-containing molecules derived from rock and completely removed from photosynthesis, such as sulfate, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. These molecules provide a lot less energy than oxygen, creating a sort of microbial slow food movement. In addition, microbial population sizes in different areas of the crust may vary greatly, Huber notes.


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Through her studies on the fluid found between the cracks in the crust, she says that in some areas the fluid contains about the same number of microbes as standard deep-sea water collected at ocean depths of 4, meters 2. In other regions, such as at the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Pacific Ocean where Lever found his microbes, there are fewer cells, around 8, microbes per milliliter. And in other regions, such as in non-oxygenated fluid deep in hydrothermal vents, there can be around 10 times more.

The Juan de Fuca Ridge is a relatively hot area bursting with new rock, which tends to be made of more reactive minerals and thus able to provide more energy. Other parts of the crust are older, composed of different minerals, and cooler.

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And, in some regions, oxygenated water reaches down to the cracks. Some of the compounds created by oceanic crust microbes from rock are water soluble, and will eventually enter the ocean. Then it dissolves and becomes an important nutrient in the ocean food chain. For example, what kinds of microbes are found where , do they interact through interconnected cracks in the rock, and what role do they play in mineral and nutrient cycling? Continue or Give a Gift. Privacy Policy , Terms of Use Sign up. Environmental Best Management Practices for Aquaculture.

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    Series in Machine Perception and Artificial The oceans are home to innumerable species that we are now only beginning to discover. To know more about their world and to understand why there is such concern about threat to oceans, visit the website. Take a look at the oceans and seas along the meridian, their importance to man, the diversity of wildlife that inhabit these waters, and some important conservation issues.

    The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems. FAO reports that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing worldwide appears to be increasing as fishermen seek to avoid stricter rules in many places in response to shrinking catches and declining fish stocks. Find out more about this threat here. Nuclear waste threaten our oceans When humans step in, the threat to the natural habitat comes not only from their actions but also from the after-effects of it. There is a real threat from nuclear waste leading to radioactivity, and now it has been reported that radioactive lobsters are found in the Irish Sea!

    This development in turn could disrupt marine food chains and alter ocean biogeochemistry in ways that are not yet understood or predictable. Such dramatic changes have not been observed for more than 20 million years of earth's history.