Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wood on the seafloor - an oasis for deep-sea life

23.01.2013
Trees do not grow in the deep sea, nevertheless sunken pieces of wood can develop into oases for deep-sea life - at least temporarily until the wood is fully degraded.

A team of Max Planck researchers from Germany now showed how sunken wood can develop into attractive habitats for a variety of microorganisms and invertebrates. By using underwater robot technology, they confirmed their hypothesis that animals from hot and cold seeps would be attracted to the wood due to the activity of bacteria, which produce hydrogen sulfide during wood degradation.


Colonization of wood in the deep sea.
© Bienhold et al., PLoS ONE 8(1): e53590)

Many of the animals thriving at hydrothermal vents and cold seeps require special forms of energy such as methane and hydrogen sulfide emerging from the ocean floor. They carry bacterial symbionts in their body, which convert the energy from these compounds into food. The vents and seeps are often separated by hundreds of kilometers of deep-sea desert, with no connection between them.

For a long time it was an unsolved mystery how animals can disperse between those rare oases of energy in the deep sea. One hypothesis was that sunken whale carcasses, large dead algae, and also sunken woods could serve as food source and temporary habitat for deep-sea animals, but only if bacteria were able to produce methane and sulfur compounds from it.

To tackle this question, the team deposited wood logs on the Eastern Mediterranean seafloor at depths of 1700 meters and returned after one year to study the fauna, bacteria, and chemical microgradients.
“We were surprised how many animals had populated the wood already after one year. The main colonizers were wood-boring bivalves of the genus Xylophaga, also named “shipworms” after their shallow-water counterparts. The wood-boring Xylophaga essentially constitute the vanguard and prepare the habitat for other followers,” Bienhold said. „But they also need assistance from bacteria, namely to make use of the cellulose from the wood, which is difficult to digest.”

The team of researchers observed that the wood-boring bivalves had cut large parts of the wood into smaller chips, which were further degraded by many other organisms. This activity led to the consumption of oxygen, enabling the production of hydrogen sulfide by sulfate-reducing microorganisms. And indeed, the researchers also found a mussel, which is typically only found at cold seeps or similar environments where it uses sulfur compounds as an energy source. “It is amazing to see how deep-sea bacteria can transform foreign substances such as wood to provide energy for cold-seep mussels on their journey through the deep ocean”, said Antje Boetius, chief scientist of the expedition. Furthermore, the researchers discovered unknown species of deep-sea worms, which have been described by taxonomic experts in Germany and the USA. Thus, sunken woods do not only promote the dispersal of rare deep-sea animals, but also form hotspots of biodiversity at the deep seafloor.

Contact

Dr. Christina Bienhold,
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen
Phone: +49 42 1202-8869
Email: cbienhol@­mpi-bremen.de
Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius,
Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Phone: +49 421 2028-860
Email: aboetius@­mpi-bremen.de
Dr. Manfred Schlösser,
Press Officer
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen
Phone: +49 4 212028-704
Email: mschloes@­mpi-bremen.de
Dr. Rita Dunker,
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen
Phone: +49 421 2028-856
Fax: +49 421 2028-790
Email: rdunker@­mpi-bremen.de
Original publication
Bienhold C, Pop Ristova P, Wenzhöfer F, Dittmar T, Boetius A (2013)
How Deep-Sea Wood Falls Sustain Chemosynthetic Life.
PLoS ONE 8(1): e53590 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053590

Dr. Christina Bienhold | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/6855914/wood-seafloor

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

nachricht Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>