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.

Related Articles


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 October 25, 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 October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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