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December 29, 2011
Images of life in one of the most inhospitable planet were captured for the first time by a group of scientists.
In the depths of the Indian Ocean is the so called Indian southwest ridge, an underwater mountain range on the border of plate tectonics.
It is on that site that the team of British researchers had been studying sources or hydrothermal vents, fissures on the ocean floor near areas of volcanic activity.
In these hostile conditions, where water can reach temperatures of hundreds of degrees, the scientists used a remote-controlled robot to record the presence of an astonishing variety of deep-sea creatures, such as are called deep-sea organisms.
In the film can be seen from yeti crabs to snails scaly sea cucumbers.
Experts believe that many of the species collected are new to science.
The existence of hydrothermal vents was discovered in 1977. While these cracks expelled water high temperatures and are rich in a variety of minerals, some living things have adapted to these ecosystems.
Scientists at the University of Southampton, England, were particularly interested in hydrothermal vents in the southwest Indian ridge because the chain is connected to other studied in the past as the Atlantic Ridge Mountains, which divides the Atlantic Ocean from north to south .
The researchers used an underwater robot called Kiel 6000, manufactured by the Institute of Marine Sciences Leibniz, in Germany, IFM GEOMAR.
In warmer habitats around the vents found snails, shrimp, clams, sea cucumbers and crabs.
"I expected that these organisms were similar to those of hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic or elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. We found some similarities, but we were surprised that there were very different animals," Professor Jon Copley, one of the researchers commented:
"One of them is a yeti crab type, different from others described in the Pacific.
It has very long hairy arms. "
"We also saw sea cucumbers in the Pacific registered before but not in the Cordillera Central mountain-Atlantic Ridge or the Indian Ocean. There are animals related to many other parts of the planet and this is exciting."
Scientists were amazed at the variety of organizations registered in this expedition, funded by the Research Council UK Natural Environment, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Scientists hope the study will help understand the movement of organisms from one vent to another. The cracks are temporary and without the ability to move from one to the other animals are extinct.
"So these cracks are very valuable for studying how species disperse and evolve in the deep ocean, because they operate as small islands," said Copley.
The researchers expressed concern about the future of these spaces submarines.
China obtained a license from the International Seabed Seafloor, International Seabed Authority to explore the possible commercial exploitation of hydrothermal vents, rich in minerals.
"The area we are studying hydrothermal vents is the length of several football fields and it may be the only habitat of some species"
"It would be premature to begin to exploit these areas and disturbed when we have not yet come to understand the richness of life that house."