A red crab trying to crack open a mussel at a newly discovered natural gas seep off the coast of Virginia.
On the seafloor just off of the U.S. East Coast lies a barely known world, explorations of which bring continual surprises. As recently as the mid-2000s, practically zero methane seeps — spots on the seafloor where gas leaks from the Earth's crust — were thought to exist off the East Coast; while one had been reported more than a decade ago, it was thought to be one of a kind.
But in the past two years, additional studies have revealed a host of new areas of seafloor rich in seeps, said Laura Brothers, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. And surrounding these seafloor vents, scientists have found a variety of unique life forms, like mussels and crabs, that survive via symbiotic relationships with methane-eating bacteria, Brothers told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. New technologies have allowed scientists to keep locating new seeps, including one that may be the largest in the world. The findings have changed geologists' understanding of the processes taking place beneath the seafloor.
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