Cold Seeps Help Fuel Deep Sea Ecosystems.
Cold seeps, or cold vents, are areas on the deep ocean floor that release gases like methane into the surrounding water. Like hydrothermal vents, cold seeps support rich ecosystems by leaking gases that microbes convert into energy. However, while hydrothermal vents release metallic minerals, the gases that pour from cold seeps are carbon-based, meaning that they originated from organic, or living, matter millions of years ago. That means that cold seep areas are an important part of the global carbon cycle and are fueled by energy from the sun, even though they exist well beyond the reach of sunlight’s reach.
Cold seep areas are unique among deep-sea habitats because they are bursting with food sources. Giant tube worms and dense clusters of mussels provide homes to energy-producing bacteria that return the favor by serving as the animals’ digestive system. Crabs and other small crustaceans in cold seep areas feast on the waste of mussels, clams, and tubeworms, while fish and octopus have their pick of prey in the bustling ecosystem. Some of these flourishing communities are ancient, dating back as much as 4,000 years.