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

Deserts on the sea floor: Edward Forbes and his azoic hypothesis for a lifeless deep ocean
Deserts on the sea floor: Edward Forbes and his azoic hypothesis for a lifeless deep ocean
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.
0160-9327
131-137
Anderson, T.R.
dfed062f-e747-48d3-b59e-2f5e57a8571d
Rice, T.
9bbcd8d4-3ee5-4a30-a909-fdb1057f7e65
Anderson, T.R.
dfed062f-e747-48d3-b59e-2f5e57a8571d
Rice, T.
9bbcd8d4-3ee5-4a30-a909-fdb1057f7e65

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

Record type: Article

Abstract

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.

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Published date: 2006

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Local EPrints ID: 43987
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/43987
ISSN: 0160-9327
PURE UUID: a2e26568-510a-4361-ab7e-c4de2bb3659c

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Date deposited: 06 Feb 2007
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 21:08

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