Bacteria Carry Out Chemosynthesis Live
Vent creatures generally grow fast - giant vent tube worms are one of the fastest-growing animals on Earth.
They need to be: hydrothermal vents generally only exist for a few decades.
And ancient too Amazingly, vent life has changed little over time.
A whole new domain of life was discovered in vent ecosystems - Archaea, an ancient form of life most closely related to the first life on Earth.
In a process called chemosynthesis, specialized bacteria create energy from the hydrogen sulfide present in the mineral-rich water pouring out of the vents.
These bacteria form the bottom level of the food chain in these ecosystems, upon which all other vent animals are dependent. They can survive temperatures of up to 113°C, the highest temperature recorded at which an organism can live.
Unique biodiversity More than 300 species have so far been identified in deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems, of which over 95% are new to science.
Many are restricted to a particular vent field, making each ecosystem unique.
On average, a new vent species has been discovered every 10 days since vent ecosystems were first discovered in 1977.
This water - which can reach temperatures of 400°C - eventually rises back through the ocean floor, erupting as a geyser from a hydrothermal vent.
The dissolved minerals and metals precipitate on contact with the cold sea water, forming a chimney around the vent. When scientists first discovered these vents in the 1970s, they were amazed to find thriving communities of shrimp, crabs, giant tubeworms, clams, slugs, anemones, and fish.