Vent Fauna of the Antartic

Hydrothermal vents, the somewhat alien worlds found deep beneath the Earth’s oceans are home to remarkable creatures. From vent worms 2 meters long (that have blood much like our own) to tiny shrimp that live in a narrow habitat with boiling water on one side and slightly above freezing on the other.

Hydrothermal vents are the product of ocean spreading centers (think tectonic plates) and cold ocean water sinking deep into the crust of the earth, being superheated, and boiling up, forming large chimneys from minerals precipitating from the rapidly cooling water.

These conditions present a unique environment for life. Numerous minerals, hot and cold conditions, and plenty of thermal energy all provide the resources for unique ecosystems based on chemosynthetic bacteria.

Looking at the images of these vents gives the impression that there is a limitless amount of life down there. But you’ll notice that around hydrothermal vents, there are a lot of each organism, but not many different types. Biomass is high, but diversity is quite low (the open ocean has quite the opposite situation: low biomass, but highly diverse).

Click the image to see more of these odd creatures:

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