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Studying the World's Deepest Volcanic Vents

British scientists in January reported details of the world's deepest volcanic vents. These passageways were discovered in 2010 in a narrow valley at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. The vents release very hot liquid minerals. But they are surrounded by sea creatures, including shrimp and snails. The volcanic vents were discovered near the bottom of the Cayman Trough -- an undersea area south of the Cayman Islands. Jon Copley is a marine biologist at the University of Southampton in England. He spoke to VOA on Skype: JON COPLEY: "Deep sea vents are hot springs on the ocean floor. So they're a little bit like the geysers you might know from Yellowstone Park in the U.S.A., except they're underwater, so they're not erupting steam. They're erupting really hot fluid, that's still liquid, but it's laden with dissolved minerals that form particles that looked like smoke and that's why we nicknamed them 'black smokers'." The British scientists believe the vents are releasing copper and other dissolved minerals. They estimate that the dark material is hotter than 450 degrees Celsius. JON COPLEY: "That's the temperature - the kind of temperatures you get right at the very throat of the vent, where the hot fluid is gushing out of the earth's crust. But the animals don't live there. They live a little bit further away. A few meters away the temperature is down to 20 to 40 degrees (Celsius)." Nearby, in cooler waters, the scientists found many marine animals, including a new species of shrimp. The scientist says these small, white creatures exist in almost complete darkness. JON COPLEY: "Instead of two eyes on stalks like shrimp normally have as an adult, these shrimp have a light-sensing organ on their back." Jon Copley says that by studying the vents -- and the animals around them -- scientists can better-understand how marine life spreads and develops in the deep ocean. I'm Jim Tedder.
Length: 02:25


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