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Hydrocarbons are the basis of chemosynthetic ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. In this video, we get to see just how intimate the connection is between oil and tubeworms. Jason’s manipulator arm is reaching deep into the sediments to try and collect the entire animal, including the delicate end of its tube that is permanently buried. Tubeworms are able to absorb hydrogen sulfide through the buried portions of their tubes. In this case we can see that the end of the tube was submerged in a layer of liquid oil. Microbial consumption has removed the more volatile fraction of the oil, leaving a product that is extremely viscous and sticky. The ambient water temperature of 4C makes the oil even stickier. This oil drop will take hours to reach the surface, or it may lose buoyancy and sink back to the bottom. Video/Audio courtesy of Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Expedition to the Deep Slope 2007, NOAA-OE.

 

Related Links

Expedition to the Deep Slope 2007

Expedition to the Deep Slope 2007: June 26 Log

NOAA Ocean Explorer Gallery