Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

LSU Scientist On Team That Discovers Methane Ice Worms On Gulf Floor

Date:
August 30, 1997
Source:
Louisiana State University
Summary:
LSU researcher Bob Carney was a member of a team of university scientists led by chief scientist Chuck Fisher of Pennsylvania State University who discovered what appears to be a new species of centipede-like worms that live on and within mounds of methane ice on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

BATON ROUGE -- LSU researcher Bob Carney was a member of a team of university scientists led by chief scientist Chuck Fisher of Pennsylvania State University who discovered what appears to be a new species of centipede-like worms that live on and within mounds of methane ice on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

The ice worms, found in waters 1,800 feet deep, were viewed by scientists diving in Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute's submersible Johnson Sea Link.

Although scientists had hypothesized that bacteria might colonize ice mounds, called gas hydrates, this is the first time animals have been found living in the methane mounds. These hydrates are formed when water and natural gas, usually methane, come together where temperature is low and pressure is high, such as in deep ocean waters,and form a substance like dry ice.

The discovery of dense colonies of one- to two-inch-long, flat, pinkish worms, called polychaetes, raises speculation that the worms may be a new species with a pervasive and as yet unknown influence on the energy-rich gas deposits. The worms had burrowed into a mushroom-shaped mound of methane seeping up from the sea floor.

Using a research submarine on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded research cruise, scientists observed the worms using their two rows of oar-like appendages to move about the honeycombed, yellow and white surface of the icy mound.

Carney, director of Coastal Marine Institute, said that "scientists would immediately have two questions. First, what are they living on? Logically, they are eating a film of methane bacteria. The second part of the question is more intriguing: If they are living off the methane, why aren't snails and small shrimp in the area also feeding off the methane?"

"In the scheme of worms, these worms, Hesionidae, are large," Carney said. "They are very active. There are no other animals at that site. Though they are sitting on the side of a hydrated structure, the worms are not consuming the methane itself. They had drops of oil in their intestines. They may be scooping bacterial film off the rocks," he said.

Harry Roberts, LSU coastal studies professor, was the first researcher to recognize the existence of solid methane outcrops on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, Carney pointed out.

Methane ice is usually buried deep in marine sediment. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the few places where hydrates can be found exposed on the ocean bottom, Carney said. Occasionally this seeping, solid methane bursts through in huge mounds, often six to eight feet across.

Each new discovery of animal life on the Gulf floor raises questions, Carney said. Where did they come from? Why are they in this specific spot and not somewhere else? Why do some underwater communities live on radioactive rocks? How do the oil companies' deep-water drilling operations affect them?

Minerals Management Service is charged with ensuring that colonies of fauna around seeps are not disturbed. MMS provides funding primarily to LSU and Texas A&M for ecological studies of seeps.

"People think of LSU research in terms of coastal marshes and wetlands," Carney said, "and don't realize that LSU is also engaged in deep-water research."

Geologically, the Gulf of Mexico "is a very exotic place. Ecologically, probably the most exotic places are the chemosynthetic communities about 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana, on the edge of the continental slope," Carney said.

The one week expedition in July was carried out aboard the Harbor Branch research vessel Edwin Link and sponsored by the NOAA National Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the Minerals Management Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

In addition to Carney and chief scientist Charles Fisher of Pennsylvania State University, principal investigators included Ian MacDonald of Texas A&M University, Steve Macko of the University of Virginia, and Alissa Arp and David Julian of San Francisco State University.

-30-


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Louisiana State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Louisiana State University. "LSU Scientist On Team That Discovers Methane Ice Worms On Gulf Floor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/08/970830062959.htm>.
Louisiana State University. (1997, August 30). LSU Scientist On Team That Discovers Methane Ice Worms On Gulf Floor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/08/970830062959.htm
Louisiana State University. "LSU Scientist On Team That Discovers Methane Ice Worms On Gulf Floor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/08/970830062959.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pakistan's 'killer Mountain' Fails to Draw Tourists After Attack

Pakistan's 'killer Mountain' Fails to Draw Tourists After Attack

AFP (Sep. 12, 2014) — In June 2013, 10 foreign mountaineers and their guide were murdered on Nanga Parbat, an iconic peak that stands at 8,126m tall in northern Pakisan. Duration: 02:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News

The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — The Ozone layer is recovering thickness! Hooray! But in helping its recovery, we may have also helped put more greenhouse gases out there. Hooray? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins