What are these mysterious marks doing at the bottom of the Atlantic?

If you have an idea, the researchers will be delighted to hear it, because these funny holes still leave them perplexed.

The depths of the oceans are one of those ecosystems that still remain largely unexplored, for obvious reasons. At present, humanity has mapped or visited only about 5% of the total volume of these bodies of water. They are therefore full of curiosities that never cease to surprise scientists. And that’s exactly what happened to a team of ocean scientists who recently stumbled across some weird marks on the bottom of the Atlantic.

In the photos, we can actually see a set of holes that contrast with the rest of the landscape. Small landforms are very common on the ocean floor; but in this case they are spaced out with astonishing regularity. And that raises many questions about their origins.

A strange crime scene and not a single suspect

Since they are located about 2.5 kilometers deep, the human track seems compromised; it is not exactly the kind of place where one expects to find workers and a machine likely to leave such marks. For the moment, the researchers therefore favor the hypothesis of a living organism.

The authors explain that “the source of the holes or how they were constructed is unknown”, but specify that “small piles of sediment could be signs of excavation” by a living being.

But even spending considerable time near the holes, they failed to spot any animals that might have dug them. “None of our close-ups showed any sign of living organisms living in these holes.”, they indicate. The identity of the suspect therefore remains mysterious.

In addition, they did not have the opportunity to observe directly inside because of the limits of the submersible. They therefore do not know if these orifices are independent or if they are part of a network of sedimentary tunnels, which could have helped to identify the organism.

An old mystery still unanswered

At the end of the day, the researchers are therefore left puzzled – and they are not the only ones. Because this is not the first time that marks of this kind have been documented. According to NOAA, the American agency which pilots these expeditions, they have already been spotted on several occasions; the first example of these structures baptized “lebensspurren” – “traces of life” in the language of Goethe – even goes back almost twenty years.

One would think that this delay would be sufficient to determine the origin of the holes. But since then, the situation has not moved an inch and the mystery remains. To find new leads, NOAA therefore posed the question to the general public through a post on social networks.

As one might expect, Internet users had more ideas. There are lots of assumptions, sometimes very interesting, sometimes downright fanciful. One Twitter user, for example, suggested that it could be an alien parking spot.

But so far, this outstretched hand has yet to produce the expected results, and researchers remain puzzled. “There’s something big going on around here, and we don’t know what it is.”, summarizes Michael Vecchione, a NOAA oceanologist who participated in the expedition.

According to the New York Times, they will have the opportunity to track down other answers very soon. This expedition was indeed part of the Voyage to the Ridge 2022. It is an extensive scientific program centered around several such underwater voyages; its objective is to study the surroundings of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, one of the most important and interesting structures on the planet.

It is a zone of divergence between several tectonic plates (Eurasian, African, South American and North American). It is therefore a unique ecosystem, both in terms of geology and biodiversity.

With a bit of luck, one of these expeditions may make it possible to pinpoint the origin of these orifices…unless a particularly clairvoyant Internet user finds a particularly convincing explanation in the meantime!

The text of the associated study is available here.

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