Wood Gives Life to Deep Sea
So the floor of the deep ocean isn’t the best place to find forests of woody conifers. That’s de rigueur for most folks. Still, the remains of trees have a major say in the bustling lives of the strange creatures that do call the abyss home. That’s the word from the scientists of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, where a study in leaving logs on the barren sea floor is drumming up surprising results.
Far from the submerged desert that many believe it to be, the deep ocean offers a menagerie of oddball worms, crustaceans, fish and microorganisms—just as soon as the proper oasis pops up to provide nutrients. Geothermal vents are the most well-known example of undersea oases; sunken whale corpses, slightly lesser-known.
Now, enter the humble log.
Just as a tree is home to birds, insects, and fungus on land, the wood provides the perfect support for all manner of marine life. Despite having placed logs on the floor of the eastern Mediterranean, one of the most food-deprived areas known, the scientists found that “a variety of organisms managed to localize, settle, grow and reproduce” on their forestal deployments. The team even discovered some new species in the course of their efforts.
While fascinating on its own, especially in light of the driftwood creature communities washing ashore after Japan’s 2011 earthquake, the study may provide insight into the evolution and distribution of deep sea species otherwise deprived of regular sustenance. Click through for more. —MN