Eddies, which can measure more than 60 miles across, are typically created by turbulence in larger ocean currents. "When they reach a certain strength they spontaneously start meandering and breaking up into eddies," says Chris Hughes, an oceanographer at University of Liverpool in England and one of the scientists behind the new discovery. Eddies play an important role in the ocean by mixing water from different areas, he says. They can stir up nutrients normally found in deeper waters and transport water across gyres, patterns of circular ocean currents that can be thousands of miles wide. This is essential for transporting heat from the equator up to the waters around the poles. "That really wouldn't be possible without the eddies," Hughes says.