A cold seep (sometimes called a cold vent) is an area of the ocean floor where hydrogen sulfide, methane and other hydrocarbon-rich liquids leak out of the Earth's crust, often in the form of a brine pool. Cold seeps form a biome supporting several native species.
Cold seeps change the shape of the ocean floor over time, where reactions between methane and seawater create carbonate rock formations and reefs. These reactions may change when bacteria are present.
These craters mean a brine pool has formed here. Salt from brine pools seeps through the seafloor and covers the nearby rock.
Cold seeps at different depths have different names. Other kinds of cold seeps are:
- oil/gas seeps
- gas seeps: methane seeps
- gas hydrate seeps
- brine seeps are forming brine pools
- mud volcanos
Formation and ecological succession
Cold seeps occur over cracks in the seafloor caused by the movement of the Earth's crust. Oil and methane "seep" out of those cracks, get dissolved by tiny bits of rock, and emerge over an area several hundred meters wide.
Methane (CH4) is the main part of what we commonly refer to as natural gas. But in addition to being an important energy source for humans, methane also forms the basis of a cold seep ecosystem.
Images for kids
Bacterial mat consisting of sulfide-oxidizing bacteria Beggiatoa spp. at a seep on Blake Ridge, off South Carolina. The red dots are range-finding laser beams.
A mussel bed at the edge of the brine pool
The manned submersible DSV Alvin, which made possible the discovery of chemosynthetic communities in the Gulf of Mexico in 1983.
Chemosynthetic communities in the northern part of Gulf of Mexico around cold seeps known in 2000
Chemosynthetic communities in the northern part of Gulf of Mexico around cold seeps known in 2006 include more than 50 communities
The mussel species Bathymodiolus childressi is the dominant species in the mytilid type of cold seep communities in the Gulf of Mexico
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has used remotely operated underwater vehicle Ventana in the research of Monterey Bay cold seeps