Life in the Deep

Hydrothermal vents are oases of life in the deep ocean!

70ºC hydrothermal vent cone site at Brothers volcano. Pink are shrimp and yellow is sulphur. Underwater; Kermadec Arc

70ºC hydrothermal vent cone site at Brothers volcano. Pink are shrimp and yellow is sulphur. Underwater; Kermadec Arc

Almost 95% of all marine animals and micro-organisms recovered from the vent sites are new species of:

  • shrimps
  • mussels
  • crabs
  • tube worms
  • eel-like fish
  • anemones
  • starfish
  • long-necked barnacles
  • microorganisms
A white mass of chemosynthetic bacteria coats mussels at Giggenbach volcano, north of the Brothers submarine volcano. Viewed in natural light at a depth of approximately 120 metres, this is a rarely observed case of chemosynthetic life-forms thriving where photosynthetic life normally exists. The inset shows photosynthetic life only a few metres away.

A white mass of chemosynthetic bacteria coats mussels at Giggenbach volcano, north of the Brothers submarine volcano. Viewed in natural light at a depth of approximately 120 metres, this is a rarely observed case of chemosynthetic life-forms thriving where photosynthetic life normally exists. The inset shows photosynthetic life only a few metres away.

Many animals are unique to particular vent sites and are not seen even a few hundred metres away.

But it is not just large animals that frequent the vents.

Micro-organisms use the gas-and metal-laden fluids, deriving energy by way of chemical reactions. Large numbers of micro organisms grow around the vents, typically as bacterial mats. Micro organisms are the beginnings of the food web on which many larger animals feed.

Micro organisms may also help scientists to learn more about the origins of life on Earth.