Deep Sea Designs
Question: What is the largest single environment on the earth--making up more than 90% of the planet's entire living space? The answer is the deep sea ecosystem, an area averaging about 12,000 feet below the surface of the sea. In the past several years, an astounding number of discoveries have been made about this huge area of the earth's living space. It is now estimated that there are as many as 10,000,000 species living in this zone, many of them still undiscovered by science.
What is most interesting about the animals that live in this deep sea environment is that they have been designed to handle the special problems of the deep oceans in remarkable ways. At a depth of 12,000 feet, there is no light. The temperatures are extremely cold, hovering around 40°F. The pressures at such depths are 748,000 pounds per square foot on the bodies of the life forms who live here. This is approximately 5,200 pounds on each square inch of their bodies. Gases do unusual things under such pressures, affecting digestion and processing of nutrients.
One way these life forms function in the world of darkness is to generate their own light--90% of all animals living below 300 feet in the ocean generate light--both to attract mates and prey and to avoid predators. Some have bacteria in their bodies that process nutrients giving energy to the animals the bacteria live in. These animals have no digestive system of their own, but rely totally on bacteria. Other forms of life eat debris from the surface waters that rain down from above. Some of these forms have elastic bodies that can stretch and actually allow them to swallow animals larger than themselves. Others set up nets--some as long as 160 feet--to catch their food.
Life on earth is not the product of careless accidents, but rather the result of incredibly complex and ingenious systems that allow life to exist in highly improbable places. If deep sea creatures and their ecosystems did not exist, the organic material falling to the sea floor from the surface layers would accumulate and eventually build up toxins contaminating the whole ocean. Everywhere man looks, he sees a wonder-working hand has gone before, creating marvelous systems of life that interact, allowing the whole planet to be alive with exotic life forms of all kinds. The deep sea designs are among the most amazing of these.
--Reference: "Mysteries of the Twilight Zone," by Laura Tangley, National Wildlife, October/November, 2001, page 53.
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