3,346 feet below Del Mar methane is seeping from the ocean floor. The rare habitat, 30 miles off the coast, is populated by oddly adapted creatures.
Some areas have dense clam beds, others have sediments covered with bacterial mats while glass sponges living on carbonite rocks occupy other areas. Large fish such as Longspine Thornyheads and Pacific Dover sole, lithodid crabs, sablefish, skates, and hagfish have also been found.
“Finding a methane seep in our own backyard is a great opportunity for Scripps,” said Lisa Levin, a Scripps professor and study coauthor 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.”
Chemical tests show that the methane is probably produced by bacteria that eat sediments under the seafloor.
Scripps grad students discovered the ‘Del Mar Seep’ in 2012, and the next year a group of students went back to the site to collect samples with a remotely operated vehicle.
A more recent research cruise allowed Scripps scientists to uncover the findings of experiments left two year before. They hope to learn how the habitat reacts to human or other intervention.
According to scientists finding this seep will help researchers connect it to others in oceans around the world.