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Chapter 11 : Introduction to Deep-Sea Microbiology
The science of deep-sea life has come a long way since the naturalist Edward Forbes formulated his azoic hypothesis in the mid-19th century. Based on dredging studies in the Aegean Sea, he postulated that no marine life could exist in the deep sea below a depth of about 550 m. Today it is clear that the species richness at depth could be many times greater than that present in the better-understood and -appreciated tropical rainforests and shallow-coral reef environments, both of which teem with biodiversity. The German scientist Fisher was also active in deep-sea microbiology during the same general period. One of the great discoveries of the 20th century was the discovery of abundant life in and around hydrothermal vents. Pressure plays critical roles in deep-sea vents, not the least of which is to keep many gaseous substrates for metabolism in solution at high temperature. It also provides an opportunity for chemical reactions to occur under supercritical water conditions. Future advances in the understanding of piezophiles, as with many branches of biology, will benefit from advances in genome technology and its innovative application.