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Warning Over Deep-Ocean Stowaways

from BBC News Online

Care must be taken not to spread deep-sea creatures around the world during exploration of the remote ocean floor. Scientists using the famous Alvin sub say the vehicle picked up limpets from a depth of almost 3,000m and inadvertently transferred them alive to another location more than 600km away.

It is surprising because the animals had to cope with huge pressure changes as Alvin conducted its dives. The researchers report the event in the journal Conservation Biology.

Spreading organisms artificially beyond their range in this way could have damaging effects on marine ecosystems, they warn, either by introducing competitors or even disease. The team urges other deep-sea explorers to exercise extreme caution, and to assume hardy stowaways could be hanging on to their vehicles.

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