Oceanus Magazine
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On the Seafloor, Different Species Thrive in Different Regions

Soon after animal communities were discovered around seafloor hydrothermal vents in 1977, scientists found that vents in various regions are populated by distinct animal species. Scientists have been sorting clues to explain how seafloor populations are related and how they evolved and diverged over Earth's history. Scientists today recognize distinct assemblages of animal species in six major seafloor regions (colored dots) along the system of volcanic mountains and deep-sea trenches that form the borders of Earth's tectonic plates. But unexplored ocean regions remain critical missing pieces for assembling the full evolutionary puzzle. (Illustration by E. Paul Oberlander, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)