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Strange Fish Found in Methane Seep Off San Diego [VIDEO]

Sep 11, 2015 03:50 PM EDT
Del Mar Seep
Graduate student researchers deployed the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Triton to explore a methane seep they discovered off the coast of San Diego.
(Photo : Flickr: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Methane was found seeping out of a deep-sea site near San Diego, California. Named the "Del Mar Seep," this is the first time methane has been found seeping onto the ocean floor in this region. When this occurs, it creates unique marine environments inhabited by highly-adaptable creatures.

According to a news release, the researchers that discovered this methane seep were graduate students at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego. They were on an expedition with the UC Ship Funds program in 2012. The site was found 30 miles off the coast of Del Mar, which is just north of San Diego.

"The diversity of habitat types we saw within this one seep was really striking," Ben Grupe, leader of the study and Scripps alumnus, said in the release. "Some areas featured dense but patchy clam beds, others had sediments covered with bacterial mats, while others had snails and glass sponges living on large carbonate rocks."

The researchers collected samples from the site using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This allowed them to compare this new site to other methane seeps. At this site they reported findings of large fish, such as Longspine Thornyheads and Pacific Dover sole, along with lithodid crabs, and various snails, worms, and sponges.

The researchers further examined the impact of these seeps on surrounding ecosystems by performing chemical analyses of the varying inhabitants. From this, they found that some of the species were getting nutrients from methane-consuming microbes.

"If the community at this seep is taking up methane and converting it to other forms of carbon, that may be preventing additional methane gas from bubbling up into the wider ocean ecosystem," Grupe explained in the release.

Since this was the first seep found in the area, the researchers noted that it provides valuable information on how these ecosystems respond to natural or human-made disturbances. It also may help the researchers further understand how methane seeps are interconnected.

"Finding a methane seep in our own backyard is a great opportunity for Scripps," Lisa Levin, a Scripps professor and study coauthor, said in a statement. "There is the potential for more frequent visits and long-term observations, and for greater engagement of the public and students. My hope is that more people will learn about chemosynthesis-based ecosystems like this methane seep. As the ocean warms it is likely that more methane will be released from the seafloor, and seep ecosystems will expand."

Their findings were recently published in the journal Marine Ecology

A video of the Del Mar Seep can be found online

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).  

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