Scientists who have just returned from an expedition to an erupting undersea volcano near the Island of Guam report that the volcano appears to be continuously active, has grown considerably in size during the past three years, and its activity supports a unique biological community thriving despite the eruptions.
Scientists first observed eruptions at NW Rota-1 in 2004 and again in 2006, said Bill Chadwick, an Oregon State University (OSU) volcanologist and chief investigator on the expedition. This time, however, they discovered that the volcano had built a new cone 40 meters high and 300 meters wide.
Animals in this unusual ecosystem include shrimp, crab, limpets and barnacles, some of which are new species.The shrimp reveal intriguing adaptations to volcano living.
The new studies are important because NW Rota-1 provides a one-of-a-kind natural laboratory for the investigation of undersea volcanic activity and its relation to chemical-based ecosystems at hydrothermal vents, where life on Earth may have originated.
The international team included scientists from OSU, the University of Washington, University of Victoria, University of Oregon, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, New Zealand and Japan.