Deepest hydrothermal vent unravels clues about alien life

July 24th, 2010 - 4:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 24 (ANI): Organisms dwelling in the deepest active hydrothermal vent ever found, as well as other newly found vents, might give a glimpse of alien life.

Researchers have claimed that these vents may host extreme life that could reflect the strange and fantastic ways life could have manifested on other planets.

A team of scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) set out in 2009 to uncover hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Cayman Rise, a slow spreading centre located in the deepest point in the Caribbean Sea.

The NASA-funded voyage proved to be a gold mine for researchers as they discovered three hydrothermal vents, including a vent 16,000 feet under the sea along a 100-kilometer (62-mile) stretch.

“We know hydrothermal vents appear along ridges approximately every 100 km. But this ridge crest is only 100 km long, so we should have expected to find evidence for one site at most. So finding evidence for three sites was quite unexpected - but then finding out that our data indicated that each site represents a different style of venting - one of every kind known, all in pretty much the same place - was extraordinarily cool,” Discovery News quoted chief expedition scientist Chris German, as saying in a press release by WHOI.

Far from sunlight, deep under the ocean surface, hydrothermal vents sponsor bizarre communities of life not like anything else found on Earth.

But these hot spots of life found in extreme geological settings could yield clues to how life may have existed on other planets.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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