Underwater hydrothermal springs are fascinating ecosystems rich in life: six new animal species have been discovered in one of them in Mexico
Underwater hydrothermal springs are extremely fascinating ecosystems. They are fractures in the ground from which water escapes and is heated by the innermost layers of the Earth's crust. According to scientists, they are the closest thing to an alien ecosystem that we can find without leaving Earth, and even are the first places where life would have formed on our planet.
Recently, the Schmidt Ocean Institute's ship Falkor discovered two new volcanic hydrothermal springs in the Gulf of La Paz, Mexico. And there, along with blue worms and similar calcite cusps, the research mission also found six new animal species.
The Discovery Site
We are in Mexico, in the Pescadero Basin, an underwater depression located in the Gulf of California.
An area where there are many volcanic vents that, with their very high temperatures and the large amount of chemical agents dispersed in the water, are fertile ground for the birth of new life, when the emitted fluids cool down.
The peculiarity of these hydrothermal springs is that the fluids that "shoot" out are clear, unlike the dark ones we find in the rest of the world.
In the Pescadero Basin, two groups of hydrothermal springs were already known, the Auka and the JaichaMaa 'ja'ag. The newly discovered vents were named Maija awi: their shape is in fact reminiscent of a dragon, and the name "Maija awi" is that of the serpent of creation in local mythology.
The six new animal species
It is not very common nowadays to discover new animal species. The discoveries mostly date back to species that lived millions of years ago, found through fossils.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute made two major discoveries: first, they found ten animal species never before seen in the Pescadero Basin, and then six more that are still unknown. We're talking about arrow worms, round worms, crustaceans, mollusks and polychaetes, which inhabit different areas of the hydrothermal springs.
It will take years to identify and name the new species, which have not yet been revealed to the public. But studies like these are needed to understand whether the Gulf of California's hydrothermal vents all have the same origin, and how quickly a fertile ecosystem like this one changes and evolves.