Is mining the seabed bad for mollusks?

Julia D. Sigwart, Chong Chen, Leigh Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Up to three miles below the ocean surface, deep-sea hydro-Thermal vents are home to a community of extraordinary mol- lusks. In an environment without light, under intense pressure and volcanic heat, many gastropods and bivalves living directly on the vent chimneys show adaptations that have driven important scientific breakthroughs. For example, the famous "scaly- foot" gastropod, ChrysonuiUon squamifentm, has hard scales on its foot with a crystalline iron coating that has inspired novel defensive armor designs. This iconic species has only been reported from three sites in the Indian Ocean, each site hundreds of miles apart and only around half the size of a football field. Two of these three sites are already designated under international exploration licenses for deep-sea mining, to extract rare minerals from the vent chimneys. Economic and political pressures to exploit the seabed are advancing much faster than scientific exploration, putting these vent ecosystems and their molluscan residents at risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
JournalNautilus
Volume131
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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