Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues to Alien Life
It isn't immediately apparent how looking at the bottom of the ocean on Earth can help us look for life on Europa, but it does.
Despite the fact that Europa is very much smaller than Earth, it has a very deep ocean. We don't know if there's life in it, but it could have great similarities to oceans on Earth.
Here we are deep in the ocean in the middle of the Caribbean about 50 miles south of Grand Cayman.
We go down to the part of the ocean which is completely dark if it weren't for the lights on this ROV, Remotely Operated Vehicle.
These hydrothermal vents, volcanic hot springs occur only in very, very, few places. The water can be at a temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit, or in some other nearby areas, up to 770 degrees Fahrenheit and yet an inch away from these spouts of hot water we get lots and lots and lots of shrimp.
These shrimp are blind because there's no light down there. They have no need for eyes.
So how does life exist on Earth at these great depths? The answer is that in the absence of sunlight, which normally provides the energy for making food, we have energy from chemicals coming out from volcanic hot springs on the ocean floor. They provide the energy to bacteria, which provide energy for shrimp and other organisms that live off them.
By looking at these systems in detail, we can calculate the amount of living matter, biomass, being supported by the chemical energy coming out from the hydro thermal vents; the submarine hot springs.
Our investigations at the bottom of the ocean on Earth not only have found out things, which we didn't know about Earth's biology, but give us a great connection with what might be happening on Europa, that distant moon of Jupiter.