Advertisement

Shrimp From The Deepest Point Of The Ocean Show Radiation From Nuclear Bombs

Researchers have found that shrimp collected from the deepest points of the ocean contain radioactive carbon that they have absorbed from the detonation of nuclear bombs.

The scientists collected the crustaceans from three deep trenches in the West Pacific, including the world's deepest ocean trench, the Mariana.

During examination, the crustaceans were dissected and their tissue tested positive for signs of Carbon-14, a radioactive isotope that was released during the detonation of nuclear bombs in the 1940s.

Image captured by Victor Vescovo at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Source: AAP Photos

The levels of Carbon-14 in the Earth's atmosphere doubled as a result of the testing of hydrogen bombs throughout the '50s and '60s.

The detonation of nuclear weapons is not unheard of in today's era either, with China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and the U.S. all having performed nuclear weapons testing at some point since 1990.

READ MORE: Underwater Drone Technology Taking Reef Research To New Depths

While a small portion of this radioactive carbon has naturally decayed, the vast majority of it has been absorbed by plants and made its way into natural food chains.

Victor Vescovo's submersible returning to the ocean surface. Source: Discovery Channel.

However, this is the first time that radioactive carbon from the nuclear bombs has been discovered at these remote points in the ocean -- the researchers were looking at depths over 6 kilometres beneath the ocean surface.

The researchers stated that this discovery indicates human pollution can rapidly reach the deepest places in the ocean through the food chain.

When animals at higher points in the ocean die and their bodies sink to the bottom of the ocean, the creatures living in trenches absorb the Carbon-14 in their bodies when they consume this decaying matter.

This is not the first time pollution from humans has reached these far-flung corners of the ocean -- a recent dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench performed by American private equity investor Victor Vescovo found plastic waste on the ocean floor nearly 11 kilometres below the water's surface.

READ MORE: Mariana Trench Dive: Plastic Rubbish Found At The Deepest Point On Earth

The researchers from the latest study also noted that the discovery indicates these crustaceans live for a surprisingly long time and don't have a rapid rate of cell turnover, which they believe might be an adaptation to this desolate and alien landscape.