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Deserts on the sea floor: Edward Forbes and his azoic hypothesis for a lifeless deep ocean

Anderson, T.R.; Rice, T.. 2006 Deserts on the sea floor: Edward Forbes and his azoic hypothesis for a lifeless deep ocean. Endeavour, 30 (4). 131-137. 10.1016/j.endeavour.2006.10.003

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Abstract/Summary

While dredging in the Ægean Sea during the mid-19th century, Manxman Edward Forbes noticed that plants and animals became progressively more impoverished the greater the depth they were from the surface of the water. By extrapolation Forbes proposed his now infamous azoic hypothesis, namely that life would be extinguished altogether in the murky depths of the deep ocean. The whole idea seemed so entirely logical given the enormous pressure, cold and eternal darkness of this apparently uninhabitable environment. Yet we now know that the sea floor is teeming with life. Curiously, it took 25 years for the azoic hypothesis to fall from grace. This was despite the presence of ample contrary evidence, including starfishes, worms and other organisms that seemingly originated from the deep seabed. This is a tale of scientists ignoring observations that ran counter to their deep-seated, yet entirely erroneous, beliefs.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.endeavour.2006.10.003
ISSN: 0160-9327
Date made live: 06 Feb 2007 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/143987

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