Life in the cracks of the crust

More than 40 years ago the discovery of hydrothermal vents in the calderas of the earth’s longest mountain range in the Pacific Ocean was a scientific sensation! Completely independent of sunlight, hidden in depths of more than 2000 meters, specific bacteria fix carbon dioxide to produce energy for life. This organic material is the food source for a bizarre and unique fauna. Giant tubeworms lacking a gut, thousands of shrimps swarming around the hot chimneys, or mussels piling up meters high in crumple space, are just a few examples of this fauna. In the past as well today the fascination with this habitat, which holds countless secrets, is ongoing.

Scientists realize that life exists also below the seafloor of hydrothermal vents. The habitat is even less studied. In the cracks of the Earth’s crust a few bacteria and archaea have been found. But what is with animals? Virtually nothing is known. There might be some hiding there or using the path of water flow through the crust to emerge at vents to settle. This is why we set out to discover life below vents. We plan to characterize subsurface biosphere diversity, from viruses to animals, at deep-sea hydrothermal vents to elucidate the nature and extent of connectivity between the surface and subsurface biospheres. Consistent with SOI’s mission, we will expand our knowledge of limits of eukaryotic life during a three-week cruise with R/V Falkor and ROV SuBastian to East Pacific Rise vents at the 9º50’N region currently scheduled for summer 2023.

The aim of LCC – Life in the Cracks of the Crust is to awaken the curiosity of students with an interactive, multidisciplinary, multilingual program and to share the knowledge of the earth’s largest habitat – the deep-sea hot vents and subsurface of the Earth. LCC will offer the virtual participation of schools during the next cruise in summer 2023. We will assist the children in the development of experiments carried out with the ROV during the cruise with telepresence, public documentation and presentation of exciting results during and after the cruise. Activities in English, German, Dutch, Slovenian, Portuguese and Spanish, which will available here.

We arranged for – live SHIP TO SHORE meetings with Schmidt Ocean Institute.

SHIP to SHORE - July 3, 2023 14.00 CEST

Barbaraschool in Brunnik, Netherlands will talk with Sabine Gollner from NIOZ, Netherlands

SHIP to SHORE - July 12, 2023 15.00 CEST

Kinderuni Wien, Austria will talk with Monika Bright from University of Vienna, Austria  

Three schools will participate in our program Life in the Cracks of the Crust – Science in the Deep Sea

Vent animals – Meat Munchers or Leaf Lovers?

AHS Rahlgasse, Wien, Austria with Monika Bright from University of Vienna, Austria

Magic Beans in the Deep Sea

Osnovna šola Cirila Kosmača Piran, Slovenia with Tinkara Tinta from National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station Piran