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'Good vibrations' from deep-sea smokers may keep fish out of hot water

So you're a fish.

Right now some tubeworm tartare and clams on the half shell would really hit the spot, so you're headed for the all-night caf. "All-night" being the operative word because the volcanic ridge you're tooling along is nearly 1.5 miles below the surface. The term "where the sun don't shine" perfectly describes the place. It's pitch black. Darn, but what's that loud rumbling up ahead? Must be one of those pesky black smokers. Some of those babies can fry your face off. A detour is highly indicated.

The long-held assumption that black smokers are silent is wrong, according to recently published research led by Timothy Crone, a University of Washington doctoral student in oceanography. It's prompting scientists to wonder: Could the sound and vibrations of black smokers be the reason fish in total darkness avoid being poached by waters as hot as 750 F? And might similar sounds guide them to the smorgasbord of tube worms, mussels, shrimp, snails and other fauna at vents with more temperate waters?

Want to be the first on your block to hear what a black smoker sounds like? Go to http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=30030 where audio of a black smoker has been combined with a video into a short movie.

The research was reported online during the inaugural month of the Public Library of Sciences' interactive journal, PLoS ONE. Aimed at involving more people in science, published results are available without a subscription and can include a wealth of audio, video and other materials.

Hydrothermal vents, discovered in the 1970s, are found along volcanically active ridges where seawater seeps into the seafloor, picks up heat and minerals and then vents back into the ocean depths. The hottest and most vigorous of the vents are black smokers, so called because when the fluids they emit hit the icy cold seawater, minerals in the fluids precipitate out an
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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
5-Feb-2007


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