October 23, 2011
Giant Amoebas Found Deep in Mariana Trench
During a summer expedition to the deepest region on the planet, the Mariana Trench, a team of researchers and engineers witnessed a breed of giant amoebas known as xenophyophores living at depths that had never been recorded before, various media outlets reported over the weekend.
The team, which consisted of scientists representing the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and National Geographic engineers, used untethered landers known as dropcams, lights, and digital video equipment to explore miles and miles below the surface of the deep sea waters, according to an OurAmazingPlanet report published on MSNBC Saturday.
"The researchers spotted the life forms at depths up to 6.6 miles (10,641 meters) within the Sirena Deep of the Mariana Trench," the MSNBC report said. "The previous depth record for xenophyophores was approximately 4.7 miles (7,500 m) in the New Hebrides Trench, although sightings in the deepest portion of the Mariana Trench have been reported."
According to Fox News, the Scripps scientists state that xenophyophores, which can reach sizes of over four inches, are among the largest individual cells on the planet. They typically are found in great numbers on the sea floor, where they thrive on dark, low temperature, and high pressure conditions. Reportedly, xenophyophores are also highly resistant to heavy metals such as lead, uranium, and mercury, because of the way the trap particles from the water.
"They are fascinating giants that are highly adapted to extreme conditions but at the same time are very fragile and poorly studied," Lisa Levin, a deep-sea biologist and director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, told Fox News on Friday. "The identification of these gigantic cells in one of the deepest marine environments on the planet opens up a whole new habitat for further study of biodiversity “¦ and extreme environment adaptation."
Levin's research "has demonstrated that these organisms play host to diverse multicellular organisms," Scripps marine microbiologist Doug Bartlett, who organized the expedition, added in a statement. "Thus the identification of these gigantic cells in one of the deepest marine environments on the planet opens up a whole new habitat for further study of biodiversity, biotechnological potential and extreme environment adaptation."
According to a Scripps Institution of Oceanography press release, the expedition was funded by NASA, the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council, Joanie Nasher, and Patty and Rick Elkus.
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