Hydrothermal Vents

Creatures of the Abyss Marketing Guide At various locations throughout the world’s ocean, the Earth’s tectonic plates are moving apart, and cracks are created in the seafloor. When cold seawater enters these cracks and circulates deep in the crust, it becomes extremely hot from the heat of molten material deep below. This superheated fluid rises and spews out like a geyser, carrying chemicals such as noxious hydrogen sulfide from within the Earth. Hydrothermal vents may appear to be the last place to support life, but peculiar life forms colonize them. Hydrothermal vent ecosystems derive their energy from the chemicals dissolved in the superheated water. Chemosynthetic bacteria use the materials released from the vents to produce nutrients, supporting ecosystems that are almost entirely independent of the Sun.

At a life-size model of a black smoker vent on the East Pacific Rise, discover how hot it is at different locations by pushing buttons to reveal the temperatures, and learn how all vent animals ultimately depend on chemosynthetic bacteria for survival. At the Alvin Theater, embark on virtual dives to explore three different types of vent animal communities.

Other things you’ll discover:

  • Press three different buttons to locate spots on the vent where temperatures are extreme, ranging from 734°F (390°C) to 36°F (2°C). Investigate the life-size models of black smoker creatures such as giant Riftia tubeworms, giant clams and vent crabs, and learn how they have adapted to survive in such extreme conditions.
  • Vent communities thrive in the absence of sunlight. The ecosystems are based on energy from chemicals within the Earth, and chemosynthetic bacteria harness this energy and provide the basis of the food web.