On a recent expedition explorers sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered what is believed to be the biggest cold seep off the Atlantic Coast of the U.S.. A cold seep is an area where fluid rich in compounds such as methane flows out of vents on the seabed with the same temperature as the surrounding sea.
In areas such as these, the methane serves as an energy source allowing life to flourish in these barren environments. Some species of mussels use chemosynthesis to get their energy, a process through which symbiotic bacteria in their gilsl turn methane into energy. With this as the basis of the ecosystem, the rest of the food chain can establish itself with other animals such as shrimp, sea cucumbers and fish joining the show.
It is hoped that understanding ecosystems such as these will help scientists evaluate the possibility of life on other planets such as Saturn’s moon, Titan which has extensive methane lakes.