11 March 2008

Insubstantial organisms

Since Trieste's historic descent, a robot called Kaiko has explored more of the hadal zone, discovering a fragile, floating world of jelly life, insubstantial organisms that are able to exist only because the water is so still that currents don't tear them apart. On the very bottom Kaiko has glimpsed sea cucumbers, worms, and giant single-celled organisms up to twenty-five centimeters across, which feed on the slow rain of organic matter that sinks from the sunlit zone eleven kilometers overhead. Because deep trenches are often close to land, wood washed out to sea by typhoons and other severe storms contributes to this supply of falling food, so that at the very bottom of our world live worms and crustaceans that dine upon hearts of palms and other rainforest delicacies.
-- Tim Flannery

(Image: Rigid diving suit, Carmagnole brothers, 1882)

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