Deep-sea hydrocarbon cold seeps are unlike most environments on Earth, as life there is not reliant on the sun for energy. Despite the lack of sunlight, cold seeps support a diverse collection of organisms that rely on the seepage of oil and gas from the sea floor. Tubeworms are a group of animals that are important for these habitats as they form bushes that provide food, living space and protection for a variety of other animals. Due to their dependence on irregularly occurring seepage, tubeworm communities can be separated by hundreds of kilometers. Currently, there is little information available about how tubeworms are transported to inhabit these patchy environments. The proposed research will identify different tubeworm species as well as determine how transport and colonization of tubeworms connects the various cold seep sites in the Gulf of Mexico, West Angolan Basin (West Africa) and the eastern Pacific off of California. This research uses genetic tools and environmental data to improve human understanding of how unique cold seep communities are established and maintained.
Cold seep organisms use oil and gas as energy sources, illustrating that life can thrive even under the most extreme conditions. This work will determine how natural and anthropogenic factors impact these specialized ecosystems. Given that the future of deep-sea habitats remains uncertain, it is critical to increase knowledge of these organisms, as they are vital to the foundation of these remarkable habitats.
|Effective start/end date||6/1/12 → 5/31/14|
- National Science Foundation: $15,000.00