Adaptation and survival in the Five Deeps

Phase three of the science plan took place in Pressure Drop‘s wet-lab.

Through the study of samples collected by the sub and the landers, we have begun to better understand how the inhabitants of the five deeps have adapted and evolved in order to withstand the extreme environment in which they live. Each has adapted to withstand the intense pressures of the Hadal Zone, the near-freezing temperatures at great depth, low food supplies, perpetual darkness and frequent seismic disturbance.

By understanding the genetic and cellular adaptation we can further estimate the maximum depth at which a particular species can survive, as well as the depth zone in which they are most likely to be found. The Five Deeps offered us a pressure gradient over a large geographic area from which to base our research.

For example, The Puerto Rico Java trenches are relatively warm compared to the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean which is the only sub-zero hadal zone in the world. Together, with the other Five Deeps, they help to broaden our understanding of the complicated effects temperature and pressure have on cellular mechanics and physiology.

Finally, we studied how the behaviour and life history of species has adapted to promote survival in areas where perturbation from frequent seismic activity can influence diversity, population size, age and reproduction.

In all cases, it was the ability of the Five Deeps to provide such a wide data-set from multiple global locations in a very short period of time that made it such an exciting scientific endeavour.