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21 Jan 2018 6:04
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  •   Home > News > Technology

    Scientists explore deep ocean life

    Scientists have returned from a three-week voyage to the Kermadec Trench and have taken samples which are expected to give them insight into life in the deep.

    Scientists were surprised to find organisms, such as microbes, having more carbon (food) available for them to eat at the bottom of the Kermadec Trench, deep in the south of the Pacific Ocean.

    In general, there is less food the deeper you go, but there's the potential for that amount of food to increase because of the funnelling nature of the trenches, says NIWA marine ecologist Dr Ashley Rowden.

    "There was hints that could be the case (for food increases)," Dr Rowden said.

    The deep trench caters for microbes, which can refer to thread-like worms, while there may also be larger marine life such as sea cucumbers.

    The ecologist and a team of researchers have just returned from a three-week voyage to the Kermadec Trench, to better understand how life in the deep functions.

    The voyage saw scientists take what they believe is the deepest ever sediment sample from the bottom of the ocean using a wire-deployed corer.

    The corer, which is a wire cable-deployed instrument, allowed scientists to take samples from a depth of 9994m in a mission that took six hours to complete.

    Meanwhile, Dr Rowden explained that seismic activity played a big part in the trench activity, as an earthquake will move sediment around.

    "An earthquake will affect the organisms which will have to re-establish themselves. So you can imagine along the trench, which is 1000km long, there will be different seismic activity," he said.

    The samples and data will help the team to understand how life at such conditions functions and differs from marine life at shallower depths.

    Scientists used a range of autonomous deep-diving vehicles to confirm that the deepest trenches act as hotspots of intensified biological activity in the oceans.

    The international team now face months of work analysing data and samples.

    © 2018 NZN, NZCity

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