Life at the Bottom of the Mariana Trench

free essayScholars often discuss and describe some world wonders and surprise people with their unbelievable discoveries. Though modern technological progress offers a broad range of gadgets and devices, which seemed to be unreal some time ago and called “wonders,” the greatest mystery has the natural creations. One of such natural wonders is the Mariana Trench, which has always attracted the attention of the divers and researchers. The most important issue regarding the trench is whether it is possible to find life at the bottom of it.

The History of the Mariana Trench Appearance

The first point of the current research aims to describe the causes of the Mariana Trench appearance. The Trench with its deepest point, named the Challenger Deep, is located in the Pacific Ocean at a distance of approximately 124 miles (200 kilometers) east of the Mariana Islands, which gave the name to the discussed natural wonder. It is a crescent-shaped trench in the Earth’s surface, which is more than 1,500 miles (2, 550 kilometers) long and 43 miles (69 kilometers) wide (“The Mariana Trench,” n. d.). “The distance between the surface of the ocean and the trench’s deepest point—the Challenger Deep, which lies about 200 miles southwest of the U.S. territory of Guam—is nearly 7 miles (11 kilometers).” (“The Mariana Trench,” n.d.). The Mariana Trench is one of the deepest troughs of the ocean surface, the form of which created because of the collisions of the tectonic plates. At some point of the collision process, one plate descended lower than the second one and went into the Earth’s mantle, forming a trench. Thus, the cause of the Mariana Trench appearance is clear to the scientists and the issue on which they have been working for quite a long time is to research the depths and sediment of the deepest world Trench and to determine, whether any species exist there (“The Mariana Trench,” n.d.).

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The First U.S. Scientific Expedition to the Mariana Trench

The researchers have not reached the aim at once. There is no doubt that the ocean depths have always attracted them, but at the very beginning, the investigations of them existed in the fantastic novels only. The British were the first to measure the depths of the Mariana Trench and reached only the point of 4,475 miles (approximately 8 kilometers) with their weighed sounding rope (“The Mariana Trench,” n.d.). However, due to the technological advances in 1960, Jacques Piccard, an engineer and oceanographer from Switzerland and the U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh made impossible. He “descended in the bathyscaphe Trieste more than 10,800 m to the bottom of the deepest area of the world’s ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench—and returned home safely” (Lutz & Falkowski, 2012, p. 301). This was the crucial moment in the investigation of the ocean trenches, which continued in consequence. The scientists were gradually collecting more and more data about the Mariana Trench. Although there was complete darkness in it and a temperature of only a few degrees above zero, they reached “at 10 890 m, the deepest point on Earth with current velocities of 8.1 cm s-1” (Jamieson, Fujii, Mayor, Solan, & Priede, 2010, p. 193). The hydrostatic pressure in the Mariana Trench reaches 1000 bar. The water salinity is 34 – 35 ppt (Jamieson et al., 2010). These parameters significantly complicate the existence of the species at the bottom of the Mariana Trench and provoke the greater interest of the scholars to investigate its fauna (Jamieson et al., 2010).

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Life at the Bottom of the Mariana Trench

The concept of “life” is very broad. Discussing the life in the conditions of the Mariana Trench, it is important to realize that all forms of ocean species cannot physically exist at its bottom, but the life of some of them is possible. Joyce (2010) writes about an international exhibition, which took place in the Mariana Trench and because of it “the amount of life the scientists found there, including a fish species inhabiting the deepest depths, stunned them” (Joyce, 2010). Sitting in thick glass spheres, the scientists were just waiting and watching. They saw the deepest living fish ever recorded by the oenologists. Later they determined that it was some snail fish. The investigators even tried to take some fishes to the ship, but they died because of the pressure change. There were also some other ocean species (fish and organisms) in the depths of the Trench, but the specific equipment did not catch them (Joyce, 2010). The further research, using some specific camera equipment gave the scientists a chance to divide the species, existing at the bottom of the Mariana Trench into three categories: large, almost invisible and unusual (“The Mariana Trench,” n.d.). The first group represented the creatures named “amphipods.” They are similar to shrimps. However, they have names “large,” because of the extraordinary size, which reaches the mark of 17 cm. The second group is sea cucumbers. The scientists even did not recognize them at once as they looked like sticks in the sand. Their peculiar feature, which differed them from the usual sea cucumbers, is the fact that they were all frozen and positioned in the same direction, with only their feeling appendages moving. The last set of living creatures of the Mariana Trench is foraminifera. The researchers called them “sand castles” first, as it was hard to believe that these animals were alive at all. Their functioning at the bottom of the Mariana Trench was not the same as in the rest of the ocean as they did not have enough calcium there to absorb. In the usual marine environment, these creatures grow calcium-carbonate shells. However, in the conditions of the Trench, they have to produce very soft protein shells. All in all, the expeditions into the depths of the Mariana Trench were successful and gave the researchers a chance to find the life there and to investigate it. Moreover, they could even prove that the species, living in such conditions, have an ability to adjust to them and change their properties to usually existing (“The Mariana Trench,” n.d.).

Researching the Sediment of the Mariana Trench

There is no doubt that personal observations limited the investigation of the living species in the Mariana Trench. Chemical testing contributed to the fact that scientists explained why certain species could exist at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Thus, Joyce (2010) states that the reason of why the fish can live under the pressure, which is thousands of times higher than the index at the surface is a unique chemical element in their bodies called trimethylamine oxide. This part keeps the bones of the fishes flexible and protects them from absorbing salt water (Joyce, 2010). The sediment of the Mariana Trench, which consists of the decomposed elements, falling from above, is of the biggest interest to the scientists. The measurements of the respiration rate in the sediment surprised the researchers again as they were high (Joyce, 2010). The next step was to take some residue portion to the surface and study it in the laboratory conditions. Abdel-Mageed et al. (2010) state that researching marine microbes is of vital importance for biologists. The life in general has started in the oceans. The scientists have made a conclusion that the organisms, which live at the bottom of the oceans, are the closest to the original living forms. These microbes allow researchers to study biochemical cycles, which other species are not able to ultimately pass. Abdel-Mageed et al. (2010) prepared a report on the chemical composition of the actinomycetes recovered from the sediments of the Mariana Trench. The primary goal of this research was to discover possible chemical properties of the mentioned organisms for creating new drugs. The elements were extracted, taken to the surface in individual boxes, purified, converted into powder and examined in the UK laboratory. Because of this testing the scientists came to an unexpected conclusion that “derma coziness F (6), and G (7) exhibited moderate cytotoxic activity against leukemia cell line (K562).” Therefore, the life in the Mariana Trench does not only simply exist, but the organisms of the sediment demonstrate surprising properties, which can be useful for the development of modern medicine (Abdeel-Mageed et al., 2010, p. 2359).

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Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion, it is important to state that the Mariana Trench is one of the most favorable natural creations for the scientific research. As for now, the scientists possess some valuable information about the conditions, created in the Trench and the species, existing at the bottom. There is enough evidence to confirm that certain living creatures can exist in the Mariana Trench and has the precise chemical composition that helps to adjust to severe conditions. The research of them has already given some positive results for the development of new drugs for cancer. Hopefully, the scientists soon will reveal all the secrets of the Mariana Trench inhabitants, which can be useful for the humanity.

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