Viewing Hydrothermal Vents with NEPTUNE Canada’s SeaTube Pro

by Kara Aschenbrenner

Deep sea hydrothermal vents can be more than 2000 meters below the ocean surface! However, with NEPTUNE Canada’s SeaTube Pro you can view great video clips of the Grotto and Mothra hydrothermal vent fields that are positioned along the Endeavour Mid-ocean Ridge, located next door in the Pacific Ocean.  These vents produce superheated black plumes (~350 °C) of seawater rich in dissolved minerals such as sulfur, iron, zinc and copper. Once the hot effluent comes in contact with the cold sea water minerals precipitate and form tall chimneys (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012).

Black smoker

Black smoker observed at the Grotto hydrothermal Vent in the Endeavour Ridge rift valley. Photo credit – Flickr: Neptune Canada (Accessed October 12, 2012).

Hydrothermal vents are also great environments to view fascinating deep sea biology. Lush communities of tubeworms, limpets and scale worms are some of the amazing organisms that you can view with NEPTUNE Canada’s SeaTube.  What is really quite fascinating about these organisms is that they acquire nutrients from symbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria which thrive on inorganic molecules provided by the plume. In return, host organisms are preyed upon by vent predators including crabs. Vents are biological hotspots with local biomass exceeding the normal biomass observed for other deep sea regions by a factor of 500 – 1,000 (Tunnicliffe, 1992)!

Hydrothermal vent community

A dense cluster of tubeworms (Ridgeia piscesae), scale worms (Branchinotogluma tunnicliffae) and limpets forms a hot vent community at the Grotto hydrothermal vents (Depth: 2189 m). Photo Credit – Flickr: Neptune Canada (Accessed October 12, 2012).

Spider crabs

Tubeworms and spider crabs at the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Photo Credit – NEPTUNE Canada SeaTube Pro (Accessed October 12, 2012).

In my opinion, the most extraordinary of the vent organisms are the Ridgeia piscesae (tubeworms).  These tubeworms have bright red gill plumes filled with hemoglobin rich blood to absorb oxygen and hydrogen sulfide from the ambient seawater.  The harvested oxygen and hydrogen sulfide gases are transferred to chemosynthetic bacteria located in the tubeworms trophosome – a specialized body part within the coelomic cavity. The bacteria oxidize the hydrogen sulfide gas, releasing chemical energy used to synthesize organic matter (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012).  Together the bacteria and tubeworms have a symbiotic relationship – the tubeworms provide the bacteria with a home, and in return the bacteria provide the tubeworms with food.

Black smoker with Ridgeia

Black smoker chimney covered with tubeworms (Ridgeia piscesae) photographed at Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. (Depth: 2130 m). Photo Credit: Flickr: Neptune Canada (Accessed October 12, 2012).

How to access archived video data available on NEPTUNE Canada’s website:

  1. To view vent features on the ocean floor, real time video data can be accessed from http://www.neptunecanada.com/.
  2. Before accessing the video data you will need to set up your own user account.   To do so, first click on the “Data & Tools” tab located on the top bar.  Once you have opened the “Data & Tools” tab, click on the “open an account” link highlighted in orange located underneath the heading “Oceans 2.0 Tools”.
  • You will now be able to fill in information to create an account.
  1. Once you have created your account click again on the “Data & Tools” tab.  Within this tab you will find a link titled “SeaTube”.  Click on the link.
  1. Now that you have accessed NEPTUNE Canada SeaTube Pro, click on the “Search All Dive Videos” link located in the top right corner of the screen.  A “Dive Viewer Search” window will now appear on your screen. You are now able to type in a keyword describing a seafloor feature that you would like to view.  Some recommended keywords to view great video clips for hydrothermal vents are “black smoker”, “white smoker” and “tubeworms”.  However, feel free to explore other sea-floor features!

SeaTube

  1. Once all searches have appeared in the “Dive Viewer Search” window, click on a dive which appeals most to you.  Once you have clicked on this dive, the video clip will automatically begin to play.
  2. In the top right hand corner of the video there are links which enable you to record video clips and add personal video annotations of what you see.  You are then able to save these video clips to your playlist, located in the top left corner next to the “video” tab.

References:

NEPTUNE Canada, 2012.  NEPTUNE Canada: An Invitation to Science. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria.

Tunnicliffe, V., 1992. Hydrothermal-Vent Communities of the Deep-Sea. American Scientist. 80 (4). Pages: 336-349.

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