Monday, March 26, 2012

Hydrothermal Seeps, the New Vents

When talking about the deep sea, most people think that life decreases the further down it goes and would eventually die out when there is not enough light or debris to support it. This is not true, however, since it has been proven that deep sea vents create their own biomes in which they support life that no one would have normally suspected. The hydrothermal vents create a biome in which the water is rich in heavy metals, minerals, and hydrogen sulfide. The base of the food chain in this biome is bacteria that are able to use the energy created from oxidizing the hydrogen sulfide. Organisms are then able to feed on the bacteria, and the food chain goes from there.
The organisms that live in this biome must have the adaptation to survive in such a harsh environment. These adaptations differ from the species that we normally encounter on Earth. This makes the hydrothermal vent biomes a large point of interest. These hydrothermal vents have been studied since the 70s, but hydrothermal seeps have not been studied until recently.
 Hydrothermal seeps are similar to vents in the fact that they support a biome in the deep seas where life would not be expected. 
These “cold vents” release methane which is used to support the life present. Vents and seeps are normally found together in the same areas, but there are cases in which a hydrothermal seep can be found alone. These seeps are able to support tube worms, deep-sea fish, mussels, clam beds, and crabs. There are many new species in the seeps as well. These species must adapt to the colder environment of the seeps from the extremely hot environment of the hydrothermal vents. It is amazing to find so much life in such a unique area of the world. It draws scientists to the question of whether systems like this are capable of occurring on different planets. This eliminates the need for the sun and can be formed due to tectonic plate interactions causing the release of chemicals and heat from the planet’s core. These conditions may be possible on other planets.


1 comment:

  1. What types of adaptations are used by organisms to survive in such a unique environment?