Introduction to Vent Biology
What kind of things live around the Edmond Vent System?
The Edmond Vent System is home to a variety of very distinct
creatures. Because of the extreme depth, darkness, and pressure,
ordinary marine species do not reside in the abyssal environment.
Those critters that do live in the mysterious fathoms below have made
intriguing adaptations to the ecosystem around them.
Perhaps the most
well known inhabitant of the hydrothermal vent environment is the
tubeworm. Reaching lengths of up to two meters, they dwarf the
tubeworms living near the surface. They are intriguing animals. Having
neither a mouth nor a stomach, they depend on the symbiotic bacteria
living within them to make sugars from the vent excretions. Tubeworms
are usually the first inhabitants in a new vent community.
Shrimp, Crab and Mussels
Other creatures include the shrimp
that live around the Edmond Vent system feed on microbes that reside
in and near the hydrothermal vents. They gather in huge groups to feed
on the microbes and also mussels. Crabs living near hydrothermal vents
aren't similar to the crabs found near the surface. They are colorless
and small and live around the mussels and feed on them, bacteria,
tubeworms, and each other. Mussels live around the hydrothermal
vents. They capitalize, like the tubeworm, on the sugar produced by
microbes living in their gills for energy.
Some of the most interesting
creatures living in the Edmond Vent are the smallest. Microbes of
multiple species reside in the vents. They live on all surfaces down
there, and can also live in the water column. The microbes are
chemo-autotrophic which means they harvest energy from the
chemicals coming from the vents. They metabolize hydrogen, hydrogen
sulfide, and even iron. They turn these substances into sugar and
carbon dioxide. The thermophilic bacteria have enzymes that function at
extremely high temperatures and pressures.
Archaea are a relatively
newly discovered inhabitant of the vents. Archaea are simple cells that
don't have nuclei. They resemble microbes somewhat, but are
mysteriously different. Their genetic makeup is unlike that of any
creature we have seen to date. Scientists don't know too much about archaea
and so of course we yearn to know more! Perhaps the secrets from the
strange species at the bottom of the ocean can help us to understand
our own existence on the surface of the earth.
Introduction to Vent Geology
1. Tubeworm picture: http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/about.html
2. Tubeworm and Tubeworm/Crab photo: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/nemo/education/curr_p1_12.html
3. Crab picture: http://sustainableseas.noaa.gov/aboutsse/liveevents/images/ventcrab.jpg
4. Microbe photo: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/nemo/education/curr_p1_11.html
5. Archea picture: http://newport.pmel.noaa.gov/nemo1999/images/bugtem.gif