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tubeworms at epr

Six foot worms!

This picture of tubeworms was taken in the East Pacific Rise at a depth of 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) by the Human Occupied Vehicle  Alvin.  Since the discovery of hydrothermal vents in 1977, scientists have been learning how life can exist without the energy of the sun but rather on the chemical energy at the vents. The tubeworms’ feather-like red plumes act as gills, absorbing oxygen from seawater and hydrogen sulfide from vent fluids and transporting the chemicals to bacteria that lives in their gut. The bacteria inside the tubeworms oxidize hydrogen sulfide to create energy. The tubeworms get a steady supply of organic carbon and can grow prolifically, tacking on roughly 31 inches (80 centimeters) of white tube to their bodies every year and can reach length of 6 feet.

(Photo courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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