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WHOI researchers, collaborators receive $1.4 million grant to study life in ocean's greatest depths
Date:3/27/2012

rder for them to bind to other molecules which they must do as part of their function."

At more moderate depths, Yancey said, there is evidence of life adapting to pressure in two ways: by evolutionary changes in protein structures that make those molecules more resistant to pressure effects, and with piezolytes, which seem to help remove the dense layers of water trapped around proteins.

"We don't know if either or both mechanisms work at the greatest ocean depths, and whether they work in all kinds of organisms or only some," he added. "These are questions we hope to answer."

In addition to deep-sea life with novel adaptations, there is also evidence to suggest that trenches act as carbon sinks, making the HADES program's research relevant to climate change studies. The V-shaped topography along trench axes funnels resources, including surface-derived organic carbon, downwards.

Hadal zones, Shank said, may be the final location of carbon and other chemicals sequestered in our oceans. Understanding how that sequestration process plays out could reveal clues to ocean trenches' role in regulating the global carbon budget, and ultimately, climate.

"Trenches are the largest unexplored biome on Earth." Shank said. "That's what makes this project so exciting. There will be major impacts on our understanding about life on Earth as a result of doing this work."


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