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Florence Schubotz is a geochemist at the MARUM Research Center in Bremen. She studies a special habitat in the Gulf of Mexico, where at depths of 3,000 meters large areas of the sea floor are covered with swathes of asphalt.This material originates in the petroleum deposits beneath the sea bed. As hydrocarbons leak out through cracks in the sea floor, lighter components rise up to the water surface, the cooled, denser components remain on the seabed, leaving a solid mass of asphalt. The result is a submarine landscape that resembles a cooled volcanic lava field. Inhospitable as it may seem, these formations are home to a unique community of organisms.