WHOI In Motion

A Gallery of Animation and Video
from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Creatures   Creatures of Chemistry
(QuickTime video, 2.2 MB)
When scientists discovered hydrothermal vents, their initial interest was in the geological and chemical processes taking place on the sea floor. A surprising find was the presence and abundance of life forms in this cold, dark, hostile environment. Here at depths of 2,500 to 3,000 meters, with crushing pressure, scalding and freezing temperatures, toxic chemicals, and absolute darkness, scientists found incredible communities of life. Previously unknown -- and unsuspected -- species of giant worms, crabs, clams, mussels, shrimp, fish, anemones, and other life forms were apparently thriving in these vent communities. Scientists launched a new set of inquiry to understand the biology of these species. Biologists have since learned that bacteria are present at all vent communities and are the base of the food chain here. Instead of using photosynthesis to get their energy from light, these bacteria use chemosynthesis to convert the chemical "soup" of the vent environs. Other life forms either consume the bacteria and thereby get energy directly from their food source, or host them and get energy from the compounds the bacteria produce. Visit some of the creatures of this unusual community!

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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