A new species of microcrustacean (Stygiopontius ) was collected from a submarine hot spring (hydrothermal vent) of a volcanic seamount (Myojin-sho caldera) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan. This crustacean group lives only around deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the central Atlantic or eastern Pacific Oceans. The new species is the first of its kind discovered in Japanese waters. Reina Senokuchi, a Kumamoto University student, was the first to make the discovery saying, “When I realized that it might be a new species, I was both delighted and very surprised. I couldn’t believe it was true.”
Portals to New Worlds
There are many hydrothermal vents in the deep waters east of Japan. The water in these vents is heated by volcanic activity under the ocean floor blown into the sea. In the vicinity of these openings, bacteria function as the primary producer of organic matter and convert mineral resources contained in the hot water into energy, a process called chemosynthesis. The organisms here are not found in any other type of environment on the planet. Some can be found in vents throughout the world’s oceans, yet others appear to live only in specific areas.
A research group headed by Associate Professor Motohiro Shimanaga of Kumamoto University studies the ecosystems of deep sea hydrothermal vents. Between 2012 and 2014, Dr. Shimanaga’s group surveyed hydrothermal vents in the calderas of three submarine volcanos in the Izu Islands (in the Izu-Bonin Arc) and collected samples of organisms to learn more about these mysterious life forms.
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