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sp02u2p4 - Unit Two MBNMS Cold Seeps Lesson Objectives...

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Unit Two MBNMS ©Project Oceanography Spring 2002 63 Cold Seeps Lesson Objectives: Students will be able to do the following: Compare and contrast photosynthesis and chemosynthesis Describe the symbiotic relationship between clams and bacteria Identify three ways bacteria increase productivity in the cold seep areas Key concepts: primary producer, photosynthesis, chemosynthesis, symbiosis Deep Water Discoveries Advances in technology have allowed scientists to study the deep ocean floor. Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have used research vessels and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for over a decade to explore these areas. ROVs remain in contact with the onboard scientist through fiber optic cables. These cables act as a tether for the vehicle while information is transported between the vehicle and the scientist. One ROV used by these scientists is called Ventana. This vehicle has become their window to the sea allowing them to observe what goes on deep below the surface. This vehicle is equipped with robotic arms, sensors, and a video camera. This allows researchers to collect samples for study from the deep ocean bottom. Exploration also includes the use of manned underwater submersibles such as ALVIN. This technology allows the research scientist to pilot the vehicle and observe first hand the area being explored. These and other advances in technology have helped scientists discover new communities. One of these communities is found on the ocean floor. It is called a “cold seep”. Cold seeps were first discovered in the late 1980’s in the Monterey Canyon at a depth of 3200 meters. Cold seeps are sites where fluids seep from the sea floor, somewhat like undersea springs, and are often called methane- or sulfide-seeps because the seeping fluids are rich in these compounds. Although the fluids are the same temperature as the surrounding seawater, they are termed “cold seeps” to distinguish them from hydrothermal vents, where extremely hot water is vented from the seafloor. These cold seep areas support life in total darkness and sometimes appear as oases of life in an otherwise desert-like region
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Unit Two MBNMS ©Project Oceanography Spring 2002 64 with few other animals. These areas are usually identified by specialized organisms that are abundant in the seeping fluids and carbonate rock formations that form near some seeps. Scientists are not sure where the seeping fluids come from, but they have several hypotheses. Some researchers believe that this fluid may result from rainfall runoff. As rain falls, it seeps through the soil and penetrates holes in the earth’s crust. This fluid can then reappear under water in the cold seep areas. Other scientists think that changes in tectonic plate size may cause this fluid to seep through the ocean bottom in these areas.
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