Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hydrothermal Vents and Biodiversity

Giant Tube Worms and a Hydrothermal Vent

         Biodiversity is everywhere!  Most biodiversity-rich areas occur where there are high life resources (taking into account climate, food sources, predation, level of pollution...) that increase species variations and overall species numbers.  However, did you know that there is even great biodiversity where you wouldn’t imagine it?  One of these areas is at hydrothermal vents.  A hydrothermal vent occurs at very deep ocean levels due to volcanic activity and spews out heated water reaching temperatures of 400 degrees Celsius (752 degrees Fahrenheit).  Many would think it to be an area where no life could be found, but that isn’t so! In fact, there are more then 300 different species that have been discovered in this extreme environment since the 1970’s.  Even more interesting is that out of the 300 species found so far, 95% are new to science.  

These underwater communities are made up of familiar ocean dwelling life forms with a very interesting twist, they rely on hydrogen sulfide for sustenance. This isn’t to say that they feed on this gas, but they rely on the bacteria that thrive off this deadly toxin.  Some of the lifeforms found in this underwater sauna are: shrimp, crabs, giant tube worms, clams, slugs, anemones, and fish.  All forms of life that live around a hydrothermal vent grow at a faster rate than their relatives, including the giant vent tube worm which is one of the fastest-growing animals on Earth.

Earth is made up of some very fascinating creatures, all of which need to be protected from destruction.     


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