These Robots Roam Toxic Seafloors to Bring Back New, Bizarre Species

These Robots Roam Toxic Seafloors to Bring Back New, Bizarre Species


Hydrothermal vents are kind of like going
to another planet. It’s hot, and acidic, and there’s big black
plumes of chimneys coming out of the bottom of the ocean,
that can be up to 50 meters tall. They’re essentially underwater volcanoes. They can be beautiful and sparkly, or they
can just look like melting old styrofoam. They’re usually covered with these amazing, huge, beautiful animals that are just… nothing like you’ve ever seen before. In the deep sea, photosynthesis is impossible. Instead, this alien food chain is built off
of chemosynthesis, where microbes metabolize harsh chemicals, and in turn are fed on, or
used by, larger animals. Because there is no sunlight, everything is
reliant on the chemicals coming out of the bottom of the ocean, and chemosynthetic bacteria. Either the animals all graze the bacteria
or they live symbiotically with the bacteria. The bacteria break down the chemicals and
then feed the animals. The model is probably similar to the origins
of life. It is nearly impossible to locate and investigate
hydrothermal vents, because they occur so deep in the ocean,
and emit an acidic soup of chemicals that would be toxic to a diver. So instead, Shannon and her team at Monterey
Bay Aquarium Research Institute first send an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle,
called an AUV. It really does look like what James Bond had
as a torpedo, but it’s just a really cool piece of scientific equipment that does all
the hard work for us. We send the fleet of AUVs out to map the bottom
first, and then that gives us a really good, high-resolution picture
of the bottom of the ocean. Then, it’s time to use the ROVs, or Remotely
Operated Vehicles, to collect data on water chemistry, temperature, and to bring back
specimens. When you collect the animals, they’re changing chemistry, temperature, light, everything. Their proteins are pretty much unfolding,
and they’re pretty unhappy by the time we see them. We have what we call Bio Box: basically a
closing box so that when you collect the animals, you can put them in kind of their environment
and bring them back to the surface. Once the specimens make it back to the lab,
Shannon uses advanced techniques to sequence their genomes and identify them, which is
not always possible with the naked eye. There’s a lot of “cryptic speciation”
in the deep sea: things will look very similar, and they’ll
be wildly different species, or things can look very different, and it turns out it’s
just a different life stage. When Shannon and her team have identified
the animals, which often turn out to be species brand new to science, they compare
the different vent sites to determine whether these organisms
are traveling between vents, or stay isolated in one place. A hydrothermal vent is a really great place
to study population genetics because it’s essentially a giant island of food in the
ocean; the next island of food could be hundreds of kilometers away. And so we try to use the genetics of animals to
understand how those two islands are connected. Understanding how these different sites are connected helps paint a broad picture of evolution in action. When vents were first discovered, we thought
that these were the living relics, the living fossils that started life on Earth, because
of chemosynthesis. Using genetics, we now know that most of the animals are relatively young, much younger than the shallow water species. The theory is still right; the model is
probably similar to the origins of life. In fact, NASA has a really cool program to
look at life on other planets, and how chemosynthesis could help that evolve. Recently, astronomers have been intrigued
by Saturn’s harsh and icy moon, Enceladus, and hypothesized, aided by NASA’s Cassini,
that it may actually be home to hydrothermal vents of its own. After recent experiments in Austria and Germany,
scientists now believe that the life from these hydrothermal vents on Earth could actually
survive and thrive on Enceladus. But understanding how these mysterious ecosystems
work is a race against time. Hydrothermal vents are sensitive to deep-sea
mining, and often are in international waters, making them difficult to protect. They’re also sensitive to oxygen levels. The deep sea is probably more sensitive to
the extinctions that killed off the dinosaurs, for example, because the oxygen levels dropped
throughout the world and throughout the world ocean. When we first started working on this, we
thought, “Oh, these things are going to be the poster child for what animals can evolve to
and survive in climate change.” But it turns out the minute the oxygen levels
dip just a little bit, everything dies. Despite their hardcore reputation, extremophiles
may not be as resilient as we thought— something to keep in mind as we continue to explore
other planets… and our own. We’re very, very privileged to be able to
visit these environments. We’ve only scratched the surface of
exploring these vents. More often than not, we’ll find new species,
new discoveries, new vent sites that are amazing, and nothing we could’ve planned for. For more episodes of Science in the Extremes,
check out this one right here. Don’t forget to subscribe, and come back to Seeker for more episodes. Thanks for watching!

73 thoughts on “These Robots Roam Toxic Seafloors to Bring Back New, Bizarre Species”

  1. Cool! This can help understand our planet!!
    We need to study our planet then we compare to other planets!!
    This planet is going down very quickly videos like this can make people change their minds

    Keep up the good work!!! P.s this is like a national geographic video.

  2. try to decrypt this:-
    sihtdetpyrcedtsujuoysnoitalutargnoc
    by the way any of you reading , please have some time for a glance at my channel i need your support as a growing youtuber please……………..thank you

  3. These undervater volcanos also has alot of valuable minerals like gold so alot of countries will destroy these volcanos and their inhabitans just to get these minerals.

    If u dont belive me here is the link to why its the reason: https://www.ft.com/content/be749ecc-3eb2-11e7-9d56-25f963e998b2

  4. Got to say Subnautica devs really did their research very well all the bizarre findings we did recently are all in the game like deep lakes on ocean bed, waterfalls inside the sea, volcanoes with fuming gases coming out, lava zones, weird adaptable species, scary dark regions, bioluminiscence etc.

  5. We should build a staircase all the way to the bottom of the sea so that future generations could speculate about the possibility that some alien race built them zillions of years ago.

  6. I see the robotics that goes on in the top firms,and it's amazing!!!…then you see the machinery these key scientists have to work with…our species depends on the more rapid integration of new advancements in tech in these key areas

  7. Leave those animals alone.Put them back. How would you like it if aliens scooped you up away from your home and family,did experiments on you,and put you in a jar,? Humans are getting more vile by the day.

  8. The archaebacteria found here are really interesting to look at basically their high temperature withstanding proteins…

  9. Evolution pushers suck donkey things. I'm not a monkey or s fish I'm a creation of god like almost everybody on earth.

  10. I find this thing called Nature to be truly amazing, no one knows how many of these toxic vents there are in the oceans and apparently they have been spewing out millions of tons of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the oceans since this planet was created. Our human contamination would seem to pale into insignificance. And yet the oceans are probably dealing with it in a similar way.

  11. Please make a video on the mysterious animals and species found deep below our ocean, because that's an unexplored area, unknown to many.

  12. History will not look back fondly on this time period.

    You spent how much on investigating the sea floor while people on other continents were starving to death??

  13. The research institute seen in this video has a youtube channel and they didnt link to it. FROWNED UPON.
    Everybody go subscribe to: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
    They upload videos showing all types of deep sea life, very cool.

  14. whats the importance and benefits of these kind of researches…leave those creatures down below alone…they are not affected or bothering anyone…why waste so much resources on topics like this…spend that money on humans living in the different parts of world instead where they are suffering everyday with a miserable life…

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