Supergiants Of The Briny Deep

It’s hard to believe, but a lot of our world remains unexplored.  The oceans which cover most of the Earth’s surface, for example, remain fertile ground for scientific examination.

At various locations in the Earth’s oceans are superdeep trenches that plunge downward for miles.  For years scientists believed that the super-dark, super-cold trenches must be devoid of life, because no known life form could stand the immense pressures exerted by the miles of water overhead.  Now scientists are learning that they were wrong.  The trenches have lots of life — and it is pretty weird.

Recently, a team exploring the Kermadec trench off the coast of New Zealand found supergiant amphipods.  These crustaceans normally are about an inch long; the amphipods of the trench are more than 10 times larger.  They make “jumbo shrimp” look pretty, well, shrimpy.

These supergiant amphipods join other creatures that are known to live in the trenches.  They all show that life is hardy, tough, and will usually find a way to survive in even the most inhospitable habitats.

Discoveries like this should make us all curious about the possibilities of finding life on other planets and moons.  If amphipods can thrive in absolutely dark, intensely cold environments at pressures that would immediately crush a normal creature like an eggshell, why couldn’t creatures somehow find a way to survive in, say, the hot, heavy atmosphere of Venus or on one of Jupiter’s moons?