Warm water flow indicates life on barren ocean floor

September 23rd, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 23 (IANS) The passage of warm sea water through the flat, Pacific Ocean floor off Costa Rica indicates possible marine life in a part of the ocean considered barren.A new finding reported by American, Canadian and German earth scientists suggests a rather unremarkable area off the Costa Rican Pacific coast holds clues to better understand seafloor ecosystems.

Carol Stein, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago, is a member of the research team that has studied the region, located between 80 and 240 km offshore, the size of Connecticut, reports Eurekalert.

The sea floor, some two miles below, is marked by a collection of about 10 widely separated outcrops or mounts, rising from sediment covering crust made of extinct volcanic rock some 20-25 million years old.

Stein and her colleagues found that seawater on this cold ocean floor is flowing through cracks and crevices faster and in greater quantity than what is typically found at mid-ocean ridges formed by rising lava. Water temperatures, while not as hot as by the ridge lava outcrops, are surprisingly warm as well.

“It’s like finding Old Faithful in Illinois,” said Stein. “When we went out to try to get a feel for how much heat was coming from the ocean floor and how much sea water might be moving through it, we found that there was much more heat than we expected at the outcrops.”

The findings were published in the September edition of Nature Geoscience.

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