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Images: When Seafloor Meets Ocean, the Chemistry Is Amazing

Evidence is steadily growing that methane seeping and bubbling from the seafloor is a widespread, but previously overlooked, natural phenomenon.

Methane, the same natural gas that we use as fuel, solidifies in the cold, pressurized depths. It is encapsulated by frozen water to form an ice-like substance called methane hydrates, which could prove to be an abundant source of energy in the future.

Methane seeping from the seafloor sustains microbes that serve as the base of the food chain for communities of animals, like these tubeworms, which thrive in the sunless depths. (High-definition images copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the BBC Natural History Unit, courtesy of the WHOI Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory and Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.)

Methane seeping from the seafloor sustains microbes that serve as the base of the food chain for communities of animals, like these tubeworms, which thrive in the sunless depths. (High-definition images copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the BBC Natural History Unit, courtesy of the WHOI Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory and Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. )