Scientists Discover A New Ecosystem Below The Sea Floor In The Deep, Dark Ocean

August 14, 2023

Scientists continue uncovering new layers of life on our planet, revealing a vast and intricate tapestry of biodiversity that seems to stretch infinitely.

Most recently, a team of scientists has uncovered a previously unknown ecosystem thriving beneath slabs of volcanic crust in the deep, dark East Pacific Rise off Central America.

scientists find new ecosystem under ocean floor
Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Using an underwater robot, a team from Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) overturned chunks of volcanic crust, discovering cave systems teeming with worms, snails, and chemosynthetic bacteria living in 75 degrees Fahrenheit water.

"The discovery adds a new dimension to hydrothermal vents, showing that their habitats exist both above and below the seafloor," the organization said in a release.

Hydrothermal vents are like underwater hot springs. They flow through cracks in the earth's crust.

Additionally, scientists found evidence of vent animals, like tubeworms, traveling underneath the seafloor through vent fluid to colonize new habitats.


"Our understanding of animal life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents has greatly expanded with this discovery," said Dr. Monika Bright. "Two dynamic vent habitats exist. Vent animals above and below the surface thrive together in unison, depending on vent fluid from below and oxygen in the seawater from above."

"This truly remarkable discovery of a new ecosystem, hidden beneath another ecosystem, provides fresh evidence that life exists in incredible places," added SOI's executive director Dr. Jyotika Virmani Schmidt. "Ocean Institute is proud to have provided a platform for Dr. Bright and her team to gather new insights into these systems that may be vulnerable to deep-sea mining."

"The discovery of new creatures, landscapes, and now, an entirely new ecosystem underscores just how much we have yet to discover about our Ocean – and how important it is to protect what we don’t yet know or understand," added Wendy Schmidt, president and co-founder of SOI.

Watch the video of the discovery below.

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