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Images: Deep-Sea Diaspora

To learn how deep-sea vent species disperse through the ocean and colonize new hydrothermal sites, researchers in the LARVE Project are investigating the complete life cycles of several species, including three in the photo above: the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila, the vent crab Bythograea thermydron, and the mussel Bathymodiolus thermophilus.

A syntactic foam float marks the location of an experimental block amid a colony of the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila.

The life cycle of Riftia pachyptila illustrates the complexity of factors—involving biology, chemistry, geology, and physical oceanography—that all play roles in the migration, resettlement, and speciation of vent species.

Newly designed high-pressure systems for culturing vent species? larvae allow scientists to examine the behavior, energy stores, and metabolic rates of larvae, which all contribute to their ability to survive migration to new vent sites.

A vent colony of the serpulid polychaete Laminatubus alvini thrives near a hydrothermal vent.

A few galatheid crabs (Munidopsis subsquamosa) wander amid a thriving colony of Bathymodiolus thermophilus mussels.

Scientists have deployed hundreds of basalt blocks (left) within and away from vent areas for various periods of time to learn how larvae settle at these sites. Some blocks are protected by cages (center and right) to determine the effects of predators on colonists. At right, a block has been colonized by vestimentiferan tubeworms after 13 months on the seafloor.