Volcanic vent surprise

What are all those frothy bubbles rising from the sea floor and coating the submersible craft in this video? Why, it's liquid carbon dioxide, venting off an underwater hot spring connected to Eifuku volcano in Japan's Volcano Islands.

Better yet, life can still survive, even in an environment this extreme. Check out what blogger Caleb Scharf spotted:

... pay attention at 38 seconds into the show. With utter disregard for the extraordinary environment a shrimp-like creature swims purposefully under the robot and exits stage lower right. It may not live in liquid CO2, but it doesn’t seem bothered by it in the slightest. We must also assume that it’s finding plenty of food within this bubbling environment.

Video Link

Via Ed Yong


  1. i salute our shrimp overlords, and i hope they won’t take my decades of shrimp eating into consideration when they decide my fate. anyone can make mistakes, right?

  2. This post seems to imply that CO2 is cool with the oceans because some form of life can live there. No one doubts that SOMEthing can live there, the problem is that MOST things can’t survive the acidification happening in our oceans due to greenhouse gases. So, as always, the balance goes out of whack and we go from diversity to the ocean’s version of monoculture farming. Not good. NatGeo has an article about this:

    We all get that Earth will continue to spin and orbit even if our worst fears are realized. But it won’t be a world for people, and, since we’re people, it’s safe to say this is a scenario we should attempt to avoid.

  3. I’m wondering how much CO2 is dissolved in the water that the shrimp is swimming in vs. trapped in the bubbles we’re seeing.  If most or all the CO2 is in the bubbles then the shrimp may not be in any danger.  Then again, there are many examples of undersea organisms living in extreme environmental conditions…just not sure if this is an example of that or not.

  4. Of course things can live there. 2 billion years ago the entire ocean was like that. Things lived in it. Now those environments are little pockets of what has evolved from what once was.  We seem to be working really hard to return the planet to the condition it was in then, with all the carbon in the air and water rather than underground.

    We must also assume that it’s finding plenty of food within this bubbling environment.

    Or at least adjacent to that microclimate. It’s also possible that it feeds at the boundaries of its extreme pocket, and just lives/hides from predators in the extreme environment.

  5. So…. I’m assuming if you brought up a bottle of that water, it’d be carbonated… right? Would that shrimp be the seafood equivalent of poprocks? I want fizzy shrimp.

  6. “It may not live in liquid CO2, but it doesn’t seem bothered by it in the slightest.”
    Frankly, liquid CO2 would be awfully cold – I have a feeling that’s not what we’re seeing here, and that the shrimp would likely be flash-frozen (for your convenience) in rather short order.


      Frankly, liquid CO2 would be awfully cold

      Not necessarily. If the pressure is high enough (like it would be at the bottom of the sea), it can be liquid at room temperature.

      Supercritical fluid extraction (sometimes used to decaffeinate coffee) uses liquid CO2 at relatively comfortable temperatures.

  7. Liquid CO2 only exists under extreme pressure, according to Boyle. At 1 atmosphere of pressure liquid CO2 is unpossible, and so dry ice sublimates rather than melting. At pressure liquid CO2 exists, and is used industrially, at reasonable temperatures and unreasonable pressures to do things like decaffeinate your coffee, since caffeine dissolve readily into liquid CO2.

    The extreme pressures are why I believe this footage is from an ROV and not an actual diver.

    Also, this vent is not the same sort as the H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide) vents at which life also exists. At least not from what I can tell. 

    1.  the footage is taken at a depth of one mile… People would know that if they watched in on youtube itself and not in an embedded window…

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