Who lives in a huge dead zone in the middle of the Pacific?


There are places on our planet that at first glance seem practically lifeless. These are places like permafrost zones, Antarctica or deserts. However, in these areas, life literally “boils”. But there is another similar area on our planet – a giant dead zone located in the Pacific Ocean. 

For a long time it was believed that this part of the world’s ocean was practically not inhabited, but this was far from the case.

These remarkable waters are located in the heart of the South Pacific Circle, in the center of which there is the so-called oceanic pole of inaccessibility. Here is also located Point Nemo. This is the point with the greatest distance from any land. The point of Nemo is also known as the “cemetery of the spacecraft”, as by dumping the ships here, the risk of causing damage to nature or people is minimal.

Despite the fact that the oceanic pole of inaccessibility has been known to people for a long time, scientists have studied very little of its fauna. And for a long time this place was something like a “sea desert”.

Not so long ago, a group of German researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology aboard the FS Sonne vessel made a trip through this zone in order to study who inhabits the mysterious waters. In total, scientists traveled 4,350 nautical miles (about 7,000 kilometers).

“To our surprise, we found a large number of bacteria in the surface waters of the South Pacific. At the same time, they are much smaller when compared with other parts of the Atlantic, “- says one of the researchers, microbiologist Bernhard Fuchs. “This is probably the lowest number of microorganisms ever recorded in the surface waters of the ocean.”

Among the microbes found by the team, dominated 20 major species. One of the identified populations that has attracted the most attention of researchers is AEGEAN-169. Firstly, it turned out to be the most numerous, and secondly, these bacteria were found in surface waters. At the same time, previous studies allowed finding them only at a depth of 500 meters.

“This indicates an interesting feature of bacteria to adapt. Microorganisms that used to live at great depths can now live in surface waters, adapting to temperature and ultraviolet exposure. ”Said one of the team members, microbiologist Greta Reinthies.

The samples obtained also confirmed that the oceanic pole of inaccessibility is a unique habitat where organisms can adapt to extreme physicochemical conditions. At the same time, remoteness and relative inaccessibility to humans makes these waters one of the cleanest in the world, which means that changes of species in them can be fixed in the most natural conditions without exposure from our civilization.

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