Sea snot seen in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. (ARNE DIERCKS/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)
We’re all swimming in snot.
A slimy combination of dead plankton, gelatinous sea creatures and their feces fall to the ocean floor and become nutritious food for deep-sea organisms, National Geographic reported.
Scientists found that shortly after the “sea snot” drifted to the bottom of the ocean, the activity of the deep-sea creatures increased.
“Anything that was once living or breathing or had been eaten at the surface makes its way to the bottom of the ocean,” study leader Christine Huffard, a marine biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told National Geographic.
The most active part of the ocean is its surface which is where algae and phytoplankton use the sun’s energy to photosynthesize. Jellyfish-like animals called sea salps feed on the phytoplankton.
The sea salps and their supper eventually die and sink to the ocean’s floor creating the gooey sea snot.
“The sea salps sink pretty quickly because they’re very dense, but even fecal pellets from zooplankton fall to the seafloor.”
All of the feeding requires a lot of oxygen so Huffard and her team were able to determine the activity levels of the deep-sea creatures by using a special deep-sea robot to assess oxygen levels.
The largest amount of sea snot storms has occurred in the past two years, Huffard said.
“In the 24 years of this study, the past 2 years have been the biggest amounts of this detritus by far.” Huffard attributes this to Global warming and ocean acidification which she says may have effects on marine life.
The increase in sea snot may also be due to an unforeseen factor and Huffard hopes to continue her research to learn more.
Huffard and her team are located at Station M, 145 miles west of the coast of California between Santa Barbara and Monterey.