Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ocean depths ‘no haven’ from global catastrophes

There may be nowhere for life to hide from the effects of climate change or asteroids hitting the Earth, according to research presented by a Southampton marine biologist at the BA Festival of Science in York.

Presenting the Charles Lyell Award Lecture at the BA Festival, Dr Jon Copley of the University of Southampton is sharing a first-hand account of recent discoveries on the ocean floor, where ‘islands’ of exotic deep-sea life thrive around volcanic vents and other seabed features that were unknown 30 years ago.

Scientists used to think these ‘islands’ on the ocean floor acted as ‘air-raid shelters’ for some species during global catastrophes. Carpets of mussels and swarms of shrimp thrive in these seemingly hostile environments, nourished by minerals seeping from the Earth's crust. This food source is independent of the world above and anything that disrupts it—such as an asteroid slamming into the Earth and blotting out the Sun.

However, Dr Copley and his colleagues have discovered seasons in the sex lives of these shrimp and mussels on the seafloor. Despite living in the dark ocean depths, these species still follow the seasonal cycles of the sunlit world above, breeding in late autumn and hatching their offspring in early spring.

The inhabitants of these ‘islands’ on the ocean floor have plenty of food all year round as adults, thanks to life-sustaining minerals seeping from the Earth's crust. But their offspring grow up away from these havens, feeding on whatever sinks from sunlit surface waters. So the animals time the release of their offspring to coincide with a spring bloom in microscopic plant life growing at the surface. This link to the sunlit world above has been overlooked, according to Dr Copley.

‘I used to think these deep-sea communities would be safe from whatever havoc happens up here,’ says Copley. ‘But finding seasonality down there shows that life beneath the waves is far more connected than we realised. Like nineteenth-century naturalists, we are enjoying a golden age of discovery as we visit these previously-unexplored ‘islands’ in the abyss – and we are gaining new insights into the patterns of life throughout the oceans as we do so.’

Dr Copley warned that as climate change alters the pattern of life in surface waters, these newly-discovered connections could carry its effects to the remote corners of the ocean depths – although researchers have no evidence yet of impacts down there from climate change.

In the next two years Copley and his team plan to undertake the first expedition exploring life at the vents around Antarctica. They also intend to visit the deepest volcanic ridge on Earth and hope to invite the public to get involved.

Dr Jon Copley will give his talk, ‘Seasons where the sun don’t shine: chasing island hopping shrimps in the abyss’ as part of the session BA Award Lecture series on 10 September at Physics PL/001, University of York as part of the BA Festival of Science.

The BA Festival of Science will be in York from 9-15 September, bringing over 350 of the UK’s top scientists and engineers to discuss the latest developments in science with the public. In addition to talks and debates at the University of York, there will be a host of events throughout the city.

For further information about the BA Festival of Science, including an online programme, visit

This year’s BA Festival of Science is organised by the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) in partnership with the University of York, Science City York and the City of York Council. It is supported by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), BP and Yorkshire Forward.

Lisa Hendry | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

nachricht Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it
25.10.2016 | University of California - Santa Cruz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>