Most of our planet is filled with water. Amazingly, though, two-thirds of life occupying the seafloor is still waiting to be discovered, finds a recent study published in Science Advances. DNA sequencing techniques also revealed that there is at least three times more life on the seafloor than higher up in the ocean.
The fact there are so many more incredible discoveries to be made is exciting. Such as these impressive upside down underwater lakes divers stumbled across last year, uncovering multiple novel species including “Elvis worms” and “glitter worms.” Also, this deep-sea expedition back in 2020 found 30 new types of species.
Why is there such a variety of life on the seafloor?
The complex environment that the seafloor creates allows for a collection of microhabitats to survive, including underwater volcanoes and deep coral reefs. “If you have a very uniform environment, then all species are exposed to the same habitat,” co-author Andre Gooday said. “But if that habitat is divided into lots of microhabitats, then species can specialize.”
Deep-sea communities capture carbon
The group also found that these life forms help regulate the Earth’s climate. With organisms, such as phytoplankton, absorbing atmospheric carbon and sinking it down into the deep ocean where it is captured in sediments. The team confirmed a highly important role that these communities play in regulating the climate that was previously not understood to this extent.
The deeper knowledge we have of how these systems operate, the better we help these creatures to work against the climate crisis. There are already some examples of this very phenomenon, with seagrass balls and sea squirts, shown to be helping humans remove plastic particles dumped in the ocean.
Source study: Science Advances – Patterns of eukaryotic diversity from the surface to the deep-ocean sediment