Things Can Actually Live at the Ocean's Deepest Point

Bacteria makes a home 8 miles underwater
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Mar 18, 2013 9:23 AM CDT
Bacteria can live 8 miles underwater.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench contains the deepest point in all the world's oceans. But despite its nearly eight-mile depth (Mount Everest, by comparison, doesn't hit six miles), Challenger Deep is also home to life, a study finds. Researchers sent a robot into Challenger Deep in 2010 to measure the oxygen being consumed at the spot, an indicator of life. An analysis of the sediment it recovered there points to the presence of 10 times the amount of bacteria it identified at an area only about half that deep nearby, Smithsonian reports.

Video taken on the floor also showed that some far bigger creatures live down there: The team was able to trap crustaceans known as Hirondellea gigas, which measure less than an inch in length. It's all a surprise because it's so dark down there—and most underwater food chains are reliant on photosynthetic plankton that need light. And while organic matter from the surface does filter downward, LiveScience reports that only 1% to 2% of it makes it to the ocean's average depth of 2.3 miles. Scientists believe the trench catches nutrients when earthquakes rattle the surrounding area. "It acts as a trap just because it's a big hole," says a researcher. The findings point to the possibility of thriving life in other trenches. (Read more Mariana Trench stories.)

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