Giant Single-Celled Organism Discovered At Bottom Of Ocean

Giant Single-Celled Organism Discovered At Bottom Of Ocean

Nov 27

Xenophyophore, a single-celled organism that is more than four inches long.


By Sindya N. Bhanoo
New York Times
October 31, 2011

Original Link

Researchers returning from an expedition to the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, the deepest part of the oceans, say it is home to single-celled organisms more than four inches long.

Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, dropped underwater high-definition cameras, placed inside bubbles made of thick glass to withstand the extreme pressure, to capture video of the creatures at a depth of 35,000 feet.

The organisms, known as xenophyophores, are the largest individual cells known to exist in the deep sea, said Lisa Levin, the Scripps oceanographer who spotted them in the video.

They usually build their dwelling structure using sediments, Dr. Levin said, and act as habitats for starfish, crustaceans, worms and clams. “They act like little apartment houses,” she said.

This means that with further research, scientists may be able to identify more organisms that live at extreme depths, she said. “Potentially we would find lots of animals,” she said.

Understanding the seafloors may help scientists understand other parts of the solar system. “NASA believes there may be an analog between what we find in the deepest ocean trench and what may potentially be found on the moon of Jupiter called Europa,” Kevin Hardy, a science engineer at Scripps who went on the expedition, said in a recorded interview.

The group was partly financed by NASA. The research has not yet been published in a scientific journal.


1 comment

  1. John Reed

    This image is not a xenophophore nor was it taken in Mariana Trench. This is marine sponge, Leiodermatium, which is common in the Straits of Florida and Bahamas at depths of 200-500 m. The coral beside it is probably Lophelia which is in the same region. In fact this looks a lot like a picture that I have taken. I think someone mixed the image for the caption.

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