Credits By: www.sciencealert.com
Hidden far beneath the ocean’s surface lies a vast and enigmatic world where not all ecosystems are created equal. A recent discovery by an international team of scientists has shed light on the peculiarities of the deepest ocean depths, revealing a surprising dominance of soft-bodied organisms below 4,400 meters (14,436 feet).
Using advanced deep-sea robots, the researchers explored the abyssal plain known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, stretching for 5,000 kilometers at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean between Mexico and Kiribati. The region, subjected to extreme conditions – lack of food, high pressure, and freezing temperatures- was once considered a marine desert. However, the team’s findings turned this notion upside down.
Cataloging over 50,000 abyssal creatures larger than 10 millimeters, they noticed a distinct difference in the types of animals residing at various depths. Soft anemones and sea cucumbers dominated the deepest parts, while shallow-abyssal areas were abundant in soft corals and brittle stars.
The most intriguing revelation was the absence of hard-shelled mollusks below 4,400 meters. The scientists postulate that this occurrence is related to the carbonate compensation depth, the point below which insufficient calcium carbonate is present in the ocean for hard-shelled fauna to form their protective shells.
This delicate balance in the biodiversity of the deep ocean ecosystems is critical to understand and protect. The findings have significant implications for future ecological research and conservation efforts, especially in regions like the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which are currently under consideration for deep-sea mining.
Human activities such as ocean acidification and climate change could threaten the fragile harmony of these cold, dark, and mysterious environments. Preserving the richness of abyssal life will be essential for our oceans’ ecological well-being and a sustainable future as we explore the depths beyond.