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'That can't be real!' Deep-sea explorers find trippy, rainbow-colored wonderland

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David Shiner
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Deep in the Gulf of California, scientists have discovered a fantastical expanse of hydrothermal vents, full of crystallized gases, glimmering pools of piping-hot fluids and rainbow-hued life-forms.

A decade ago, scientists visiting this spot saw nothing unusual; this psychedelic seascape seems to have built up around an increase in hydrothermal venting — spots in the seafloor where mineral-laden and superhot water jets out — in the last 10 years.

"Astonishing is not strong enough of a word," said Mandy Joye, a marine biologist at the University of Georgia, who led the team that discovered the vents.

"We saw a lot of really interesting topography, which made me scratch my head," Joye said.

Nearly 6,000 feet (1,800 m) below the surface, they saw the vents that were carpeted with microbes, marine worms and species they didn't recognize.

Most likely, Joye said, new vents have opened since then, or the rate of hydrothermal fluid flow has increased.

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David Shiner
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