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Swirling ocean eddies seen spreading life

WOODS HOLE, Mass., April 28 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say huge ocean eddies as much as 300 miles wide can reach the ocean bottom 8,000 feet below and transport marine creatures across wide areas.

The previously unknown deep-sea phenomenon helps explain how tiny sea creatures, chemicals and heat from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor can travel huge distances from one vent area to another, said Diane K. Adams a biologist at the National Institutes of Health, who led the study at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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"We knew these eddies existed," Adams said. "But nobody realized they can affect processes on the bottom of the ocean. Previous studies had looked at the upper ocean."

The eddies, generated at the surface by atmospheric events such as wind jets, can be strengthened during an El Nino and "are known to have a strong influence on surface ocean dynamics and production," Adams said.

The eddies appear to form seasonally, suggesting repeated interactions with undersea ridges, a WHOI release said Thursday.

"There are numerous places around the globe where they could be interacting with the deep sea," Adams said.

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