Snot sustains undersea life
Finally some good news. Marine biologists have figured out one of the secrets of life in the deep sea beds of Monterey Bay. Until now, it was unclear how anything could live down there. No sunlight, no photosynthesis, no photosynthesis no plants, no plants, no food for animals.
It turns out we can thank tadpole-like creatures called "giant larvaceans" for secreting huge balls of mucus. The lavaceans live inside these mucus balls until they get too clogged up and gross. At this point, the larvaceans discard their old homes and make new ones. The old dirty mucus balls sink like bombs of carbon and provide food for deep sea animals.
Giant Larvacean Houses: Rapid Carbon Transport to the Deep Sea Floor
Bruce H. Robison,* Kim R. Reisenbichler, Rob E. Sherlock
An unresolved issue in ocean science is the discrepancy between the food requirements of the animals living on the deep sea floor and their food supply, as measured by sediment traps. A 10-year time-series study of the water column off Monterey Bay, California, revealed that the discarded mucus feeding structures of giant larvaceans carry a substantial portion of the upper ocean's productivity to the deep seabed. These abundant, rapidly sinking, carbon-rich vectors are not detected by conventional sampling methods and thus have not been included in calculations of vertical nutrient flux or in oceanic carbon budgets.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, 7700 Sandholdt Road, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA. Science, Vol 308, Issue 5728, 1609-1611, 10 June 2005.
A live, nude giant larvacean.