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Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology

KIOST discovers new hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean

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  • Date : 2021-11-15
Onbada Vent Field.PNG 바로보기 A white conch living attached to a hydrothermal vent 바로보기

Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) President Kim Woong-seo has announced that KIOST made Korea's second and third discoveries of hydrothermal vents in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean, and that it had secured biological samples from the surrounding ecosystem. This discovery is expected to bring great progress in discovering new marine organisms, developing biological resources and revealing secrets of life on Earth.

With the support of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, a research team led by Principal Research Scientist Kim Dong-sung, who had set sail for an exploration of the Indian Ocean aboard the RV Isabu, discovered hydrothermal vents Onbada and Onnare individually at depths of 2,500 to 3,000 m on November 6 and 7. Onbada has a series of 7 chimneys, and Onnare has 9 intricately intertwined large and small chimneys. The ambient temperature of both was about 303℃.

Kim  Dong-sung's team discovered the Onnuri Vent Field in 2018, which is the first discovery of a hydrothermal vent made among Koreans and the fourth discovery globally. There hadn’t been any subsequent discovery for a while. However, Korea’s second and third discoveries of hydrothermal vents were made by the same research team that had found the Onnuri vent. With this, the number of hydrothermal vents that Korea has discovered in the Indian Ocean has increased to three. Principal Research Scientist Kim said, “The data of past research (an exploration project for future marine mineral resource made by Principal Research Scientist Son Seung-kyu and Kim Jong-uk) were very helpful in predicting the location of hydrothermal vents.” He added, “After a close inspection by the unmanned submersible ROPOS, we were able to discover hydrothermal vents and their surrounding environments.”

Hydrothermal vents are similar in shape to volcanoes. When seawater heated by magma gushes through weak cracks in the crust, metal ions in the seawater come into contact with cold seawater and precipitate, forming hydrothermal vents. The deep sea is a barren environment full of toxic substances, with high water temperature and pressure and no sunlight; however, diverse life forms exist there. Hydrothermal organisms maintain ecosystems through chemical synthesis in the ecosystems of hydrothermal vents, unlike in photosynthetic ecosystems. Hydrothermal vents are crucial to understanding the mechanisms by which organisms adapt to extreme environments.

An ecosystem was formed around Onbada and Onnare using black smoke emitted from chimneys as nutrients. The research team has secured various biological species and biological samples, and they will research the function and structure of the extreme hydrothermal ecosystems, including the mechanism of hydrothermal water generation and the circulation of materials inside the earth. Bioresearch data are also used for research on the development of source technologies for biodiversity and genetic resource utilization.

KIOST President Kim Woong-seo remarked, “Finding a hydrothermal vent in the deep sea is much more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack, but our team has done it again.” He added, “As the ecosystem around a hydrothermal vent is similar to the ecosystem when life first appeared on Earth, the hydrothermal vent is called the key to unlocking the secrets of life on Earth. KIOST will take the lead in marine life research and mineral resource development based on this achievement.”


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Last Update : 2022-06-14