Recently in the Oceanic Research Category


New research may provide a breakthrough for scientists to understand life in the harshest of environments.

On May 14, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Okeanos Explorer will depart from Port Canaveral in Florida on a two-week expedition led by NOAA Ocean Exploration, featuring the technology demonstration of an autonomous underwater vehicle.

Oxygen is essential for the development of higher life. However, it was hardly present in the oceans of the young Earth. It was not until the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria that the oceans saw a significant increase in oxygen levels.

A team led by University of Minnesota researchers has discovered that deep-sea bacteria dissolve carbon-containing rocks, releasing excess carbon into the ocean and atmosphere.

Oceans Without Oxygen

With no dissolved oxygen to sustain animals or plants, ocean anoxic zones are areas where only microbes suited to the environment can live. "You don't get big fish," said UC Santa Barbara biogeochemist Morgan Raven. "You don't even get charismatic zooplankton." But although anoxic oceans may seem alien to organisms like ourselves that breathe oxygen, they're full of life, she said.

The hypothesis that one or more biodiversity drops in the Phanerozoic eon, evident in the geological record, might have been caused by the most powerful kind of stellar explosion so far known Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB) has been discussed in several works.

For the first time, researchers have mapped the biological diversity of marine sediment, one of Earth's largest global biomes. Although marine sediment covers 70% of the Earth's surface, little was known about its global patterns of microbial diversity.

The discovery of hydrothermal vents - where volcanoes at the seafloor produce hot fluid exceeding 350 degrees Celsius, or 662 degrees Fahrenheit, fundamentally changed our understanding about Earth and life in the 1970s. Yet, life at and underneath the seafloor is still very much a mystery today.

A New Look At Deep Sea Microbes

Microbial cells are found in abundance in marine sediments beneath the ocean and make up a significant amount of the total microbial biomass on the planet.

This is a community draft white paper for submission to the Decadal Survey in Planetary Science and Astrobiology, reflecting the views of the NASA Astrobiology Program's Research Coordination Network for Ocean Worlds (NOW).