The Mysteries Of The Abyssal Zone
It is natural for humans to be curious and wanting a sense of exploration. The biggest companies and richest people have often spent millions of dollars to explore uncharted land, resources, and even space in conquest for discovering new things.
However, these missions often end in coming home with millions of dollars wasted, or a minor discovery not even worth mentioning. But what if there was something else we could explore? Well, we do have a literal sandbox left to explore and it’s called the Abyssal Zone!
Just How Big is the Abyssal Zone?
Humans have only explored 5% of the ocean and in the ocean, there are 4 zones which are the sunlight zone, the twilight zone, the midnight zone, and the abyssal zone. The abyssal zone is the least explored zone because of its dangerous environment. The pressure is immense too, reaching around 600 times the pressure we feel on the surface.
It is also considered the biggest zone as it covers 60% of the global surface and 83% of the oceans. Because of this, our exploration of the abyssal zone has been limited greatly, meaning so much of this particular zone has been undiscovered and ready to be explored.
Life in the Abyssal Zone
Solitary life other than ecosystems exists here too, such as large fish (Anglerfish, Fangtooth fish, etc.), crustaceans (Spidercrab, Squat Lobsters, etc.) and many more creatures. These marine animals survive on a few unique adaptations exclusive to the abyssal zone.
Bioluminescence: The chemical reaction between luciferin, photoprotein and calcium ions cause the emissions of blue or green lights, which is called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is also considered a cold light as less than 20% of the light emits thermal heat. This light can be used offensively by predators like the Anglerfish to lure prey towards them, defensively to create diversions against attacking predators, or passively to communicate with other creatures and mate.
Large Mouth and Stomach: Since food is scarce, having a large mouth and stomach is very useful for gathering available food such as a whale carcass and storing food for when nothing is available. This adaptation is extremely important for larger predators since they use more energy than smaller creatures.
Creatures of the Depths
Anglerfish: The anglerfish is a large deep-sea fish that has big teeth and a lure on its head. The lure has a bioluminescent glow and it attracts prey from far distances, so when an unexpected victim comes along, the angler will swallow the fish whole.
The bioluminescent glow can also be used to attract a mate. Finding a mate is hard in the dark, so it waves its lure around to attract a mate. If a male angler finds a female angler, the male angler will attach to the female permanently for the rest of his life.
Vampire Squid: The Vampire Squid is a small squid that lives in the abyssal zone. Instead of using black ink, it uses a special bioluminescent ink that works effectively in the dark. This diversion is used to scare and confuse predators while the squid escapes.
The vampire squid can also emit bioluminescent lights from the tips of their tentacles. This is used to communicate with others, confuse more predators and to attract a mate.
Poryfish: The poryfish is a small fish that feeds on marine snow (particles of dead creatures). This fish has a unique evasive ability involving bioluminescence. By illuminating itself with bioluminescence light, it camouflages itself with the blue surface above, making itself virtually invisible from predators below.
However, some predators such as the Hatchet Fish have adapted to differentiate the light levels in the sky and have gained the ability to see prey above with its massive eyes.
Ecosystems in the Abyssal Zone
You already know life exists in the abyssal zone, but did you know that whole ecosystems exist underground too? Ranging from Deep Sea Coral Reefs to Tube Worm Fields, these animals have adapted to live in the harshest environment ever. Yes, I said animals because these ecosystems are very special. They operate without the power of the sun which is fascinating!
This means no green plants grow here, so how do these ecosystems get powered? Hydrothermal vents are the answer! These vents have specialized bacteria called chemosynthetic bacteria that absorb the inorganic chemicals around the vents to create energy.
This creates energy-rich bacteria for deep sea corals and tube worms to feed on and grow. So in other words, these hydrothermal vents act as a mini sun, feeding rays of bacteria to power the surrounding life, including other fish and crustaceans.
Why Do We Explore the Abyssal Zone?
Since we have explored less than 5% of the abyssal zone, we are bound to find new resources we can use. Let’s see what we can discover.
Medical Organisms: Some creatures could contain medical properties that could cure certain diseases or viruses.
Energy Resources: Many rocks, materials and even the thermal vents contain energy that can be used to power machines, electricity and other devices. We could even establish thermal powered research labs underwater! How cool is that!
Food: A steady food source could be existent down here in the depths of the abyss, but I would not dare to put anything here in my mouth.
Information from the floor of the abyssal zone can also help predict incoming natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. It can even tell us how we are affecting and being affected by Earth’s climate. With plenty to discover, this can create jobs for marine biologists and engineers to make a groundbreaking discovery as well.
We even have found uses for bioluminescence in our products and lives.
- Bioluminescent Algae Lamps can create light without using electricity. Many tiny organisms will be in these saltwater lamps and produce bioluminescent lights self sufficiently.
- Bioluminescent technology can be used as a tester for water purity. Tiny microorganisms can sense the faintest toxins in the water.
- Bioluminescent molecules can even detect cancer cells since bioluminescence allows researchers to study live tissues.
With plenty of resources and attention going into space exploration, I’d say it’s certainly possible to promote sea exploration too. We’ve already discovered fascinating creatures and functioning ecosystems in the abyssal zone, so why not continue? We can even discover valuable resources and information that can benefit us and help work us towards a better planet.