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Radioactive carbon created as a by-product of nuclear bomb tests has reached the deepest parts of the ocean — and is ending up inside marine creatures.
This finding by Chinese researchers shows just how quickly human pollution can enter the food chain and find its way down to the deep ocean.
Bomb - Carbon - Scientists - Life - Manages
However, this bomb carbon is helping scientists to learn more about how marine life manages to get by in such cold, dark, deep and nutrient-poor environments.
They found that tiny marine crustaceans can live far longer than their shallow water counterparts and grow to a much larger size.
Animals - Metabolisms - Adaptation - Living - Conditions
This is likely because the animals have evolved extremely slow metabolisms as an adaptation to living in the extreme conditions found in deep oceanic trenches.
Researchers led by Chinese Academy of Sciences geochemist Ning Wang used traces of carbon from nuclear bombs to analyse deep sea amphipods, tiny marine crustaceans that live by scavenging dead organisms and marine detritus.
Animals - Trenches - West - Pacific - Ocean
The animals were collected in 2017 from three trenches in the west Pacific Ocean — Mariana, Mussau and New Britain — down to depths of up to 7 miles (11 kilometres) below the ocean's surface.
Experts were surprised to discover that the carbon-14 levels in the amphipods' muscles were much greater than those found in organic matter floating around in deep waters.
Findings - Amphipods - Detritus - Seafloor - Ocean
These findings suggest that amphipods are selectively feeding on detritus that has fallen to the seafloor from the ocean's surface, rather than taking in the more local sources of carbon found deposited in nearby sediments.
'Although the oceanic circulation takes hundreds of years to bring water containing bomb [carbon] to the deepest trench, the food chain achieves this much faster,' said Ms Wang.
Findings - Researchers - Creatures - Amphipods - Parts
The findings are helping researchers to understand how creatures like amphipods have adapted to living in the deepest parts of the ocean, which lie over 4...
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