Seamounts — undersea mountains formed by volcanic activity — were once thought to be little more than hazards to submarine navigation. Today, scientists recognize these structures as biological hotspots that support a dazzling array of marine life.
The biological richness of seamount habitats results from the shape of these undersea mountains. Thanks to the steep slopes of seamounts, nutrients are carried upwards from the depths of the oceans toward the sunlit surface, providing food for creatures ranging from corals to fish to crustaceans.
New estimates suggest that, taken together, seamounts encompass about 28.8 million square kilometers of the Earth's surface. That's larger than deserts, tundra, or any other single land-based global habitat on the planet.
For more information
Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research
National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
New Report Revises Estimate of Worldwide Seamount Distribution (NOS News, May 2010)
The Hidden World of Seamounts (Making Waves podcast, 5.13.10)
Seamount Fly-Through (YouTube video)
Original article: What is a seamount?