South of the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean there’s a mountainside ecosystem crawling with strange life forms. The only thing is, the slopes of that mountain are almost 5,000 meters below the surface of the ocean.
Two new fields of hydrothermal vents, Beebe and Von Damm, were discovered recently, and are currently the deepest such vents known on Earth. Like we saw in Antarctica last week, these super-hot (800 degrees Fahrenheit!) and mineral rich vents are home to almost-alien species, seen nowhere else on the planet, and highly evolved for success at just that sweet spot.
One peculiar little guy caught my eye. Those tiny shrimp in the photo above live in complete darkness, but have evolved a strange sensory organ on their backs. Some scientists think that it’s a thermal sensor to allow them to sense warm water pockets in an otherwise frigid, night-like neighborhood. Not only that, but they farm a particular bacteria - their sole food source - right on their own bodies!
Essentially they resemble a very eco-friendly Predator.
(via LiveScience, image via University of Southampton / NOC)