(p. A19) Off the coast of Mississippi, under 4,000 feet of water, a luxury yacht is slowly disintegrating. Marine creatures dart, cling and scuttle near the hull of the wreck, which has been lying undisturbed for 75 years.
But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this shipwreck and others, researchers have now shown — distinct assemblages of microbes inhabit the seafloor surrounding these structures, helping to turn shipwreck sites into artificial reefs rich in life.
Shipwrecks are trespassers on the bottom of the ocean, human-made structures decidedly out of their element. But a wreck’s intrusion gradually becomes welcome as various forms of marine life seek refuge among the steel and wood.
. . .
Magnificent ecosystems exist around shipwrecks, said Andrew Davies, a marine biologist at the University of Rhode Island who was not involved in the research. But it’s been largely unknown how these artificial structures affect the surrounding seafloor, he said, so it’s good to see studies like this that are focused on “habitats of opportunity.”
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 21, 2020, and has the title “Microbes Point the Way to Shipwrecks.”)