Monday, November 23, 2009

A Semi-Serious Meditation on Scavengers

The ocean floor is home to one of the world’s largest clean-up crews. Imagine all the leavings of carelessness, death, and destruction that sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Scientists in oceanography have discovered that thousands of scavengers and decomposers, as well as exotic and beautiful creatures, live in total darkness below 656 feet in the ocean, according to this linked Associated Press article on Yahoo.

The AP article says “Thousands of marine species eke out an existence in the ocean's pitch-black depths by feeding on the snowlike decaying matter that cascades down — even sunken whale bones. Oil and methane also are an energy source for the bottom-dwellers. . . .”

The deepest ocean floor is the domicile of giant tubeworms. In the upper areas of the ocean, an Extreme Science site says, tubeworms commonly grow to about the size of your hand, but the deep sea variety of tubeworm often reaches eight feet in length around warm-water vents.
According to the site of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of Delaware, tubeworms are structurally very simple in that they do not have the internal organs most creatures have--mouth, eyes, and stomach--that aid in finding nourishment and eating.  It was discovered recently that they do have mouths and stomachs in their earliest stages to help them take in the bacteria on which they live. But as they grow, these organs disappear.

The Extreme Science site says
Scientists were at a loss to explain how these tube-worms were getting nutrients to survive and grow. It turns out their insides are lined with bacteria that oxidize the H2S (hydrogen sulfide gas released by the hydrothermal vents), turning it into usable nutrients for the worms. The bacteria, in turn, benefit from the relationship because the worms deliver blood-containing hemoglobin, which helps the bacteria to break down the sulfides.

It is all a cycle whose parts mesh perfectly.

The deep-sea tubeworm is something amazing (among many things) that God has created as part of  the ocean’s janitorial team.  Even nasty oil spill messes can be scoured up and turned into nutrients. The earth is full of highly efficient scavengers and decomposers like buzzards, hyenas, and cockroaches, not to mention fungi, microbes, and bacteria.

Afterthought: A cockroach can live a week without its head! (It only dies then because it can't drink water.)  --A Good Grief! Moment from NatureWorks 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good grief! I think I know some cockroaches personally that have lived without heads for YEARS! Now that is resilience! (Note to former teacher: if I spelled resilience incorrectly, it is because I hit my head really, really hard when I was young). Jana

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