About CSA Products Support & Training News and Events Contact Us
Discovery Guides Areas


Hydrothermal Vent Communities
(Released May 2006)

  by Carolyn Scearce  


Key Citations

Web Sites



Why study hydrothermal vents?


The prospect of studying hydrothermal vents presents a number of challenges, as site locations are frequently remote and found at great depths, and obtaining samples can require considerable ingenuity and complicated equipment. Considering these challenges, one might ask what the value is of studying these remote biological communities. Their existence presents a number of intriguing questions and the possibilities for even more intriguing answers. Since their discovery, scientists have speculated that life on earth may have first evolved under conditions similar to those found at hydrothermal vents (Little & Vrijenhoek, 2003). Genomic studies suggest that some of the thermophilic microorganisms found at hydrothermal vents come from very ancient lineages (Teske et al, 2003).

Furthermore, a number of scientists have suggested that the environment at vent sites might be similar to conditions on other planets. The chemosynthetic model may offer a glimpse of what conditions might be faced by life in extraterrestrial systems. Studies of succession and vent biogeography provide a basis of comparison to address how other aquatic and terrestrial communities found in isolated systems develop and are populated. On a more immediately practical side, vent microorganisms might offer useful natural products and new biotechnologies, such as high temperature tolerant enzymes (Deming, 1998). Studies of vent invertebrates, such as Riftia pachyptila, also show interesting body chemistries that help these organisms adapt to the stresses of the environment (Yancey, 2005). Whatever the questions that stimulate an individual, the discovery of hydrothermal vent communities has expanded our knowledge of the diversity of life and our understanding of the range of conditions in which life on earth can thrive.

© Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved, CSA


  1. Ballard, R.D. & Grassle, J.F. Return to oases of the Deep. National Geographic 156, 680-705 (1979).

  2. Boetius, A. Lost City Life. Science (Wash. ) 307, 1420-1422 (2005).

  3. Childress, J. J. & Fisher, C. R. The biology of hydrothermal vent animals: physiology, biochemistry, and autotrophic symbioses. Oceanography and Marine Biology, an Annual Review 30 1992:337-441. (1992).

  4. Colaco, A., Dehairs, F. & Desbruyeres, D. Nutritional relations of deep-sea hydrothermal fields at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: a stable isotope approach. Deep-Sea Res. (I Oceanogr. Res. Pap. ) 49, 395-412 (2002).

  5. Deming, J. W. Deep ocean environmental biotechnology. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 9, 283-287 (1998).

  6. Desbruyeres, D. & Commission Internationale pour l'Exploration de la Mer Mediterranee - CIESM, Monaco. in Chemosynthesis-based ecosystems in the deep Atlantic - what we do know and we don't (CIESM, Monaco (Monaco), 2003).

  7. Flores, J. F. et al. Sulfide binding is mediated by zinc ions discovered in the crystal structure of a hydrothermal vent tubeworm hemoglobin. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 2713-2718 (2005).

  8. Govenar, B., Freeman, M., Bergquist, D. C., Johnson, G. A. & Fisher, C. R. Composition of a One-Year-Old Riftia pachyptila Community following a; Clearance Experiment: Insight to Succession Patterns at Deep-Sea; Hydrothermal Vents. Biol. Bull. 207, 177-182 (2004).

  9. Hashimoto, J. et al. First Hydrothermal Vent Communities from the Indian Ocean Discovered. Zool. Sci. 18, 717-721 (2001).

  10. Hurtado, L. A., Mateos, M., Lutz, R. A. & Vrijenhoek, R. C. Coupling of bacterial endosymbiont and host mitochondrial genomes in the hydrothermal vent clam Calyptogena magnifica. Applied and environmental microbiology 69, 2058-2064 (2003).

  11. Jannasch, H. W. Biocatalytic transformations of hydrothermal fluids. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. (A Math. Phys. Sci. ) 355, 475-486 (1997).

  12. Kelley, D. S. From the Mantle to Microbes: The Lost City Hydrothermal Field. Oceanography 18, 32-45 (2005).

  13. Kelley, D. S. et al. A Serpentinite-Hosted Ecosystem: The Lost City Hydrothermal Field. Science (Wash. ) 307, 1428-1434 (2005).

  14. Little, C. T. S. & Vrijenhoek, R. C. Are Hydrothermal Vent Animals Living Fossils? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18, 582-588 (2003).

  15. Lonsdale, P. Clustering of suspension-feeding macrobenthos near abyssal hydrothermal vents at oceanic spreading centers. Deep-Sea Res., 24(9), 857-863 (1977).

  16. Lutz, R. A., Shank, T. M. & Evans, R. Life After Death in the Deep Sea. Am. Sci. 89, 422-431 (2001).

  17. Marsh, A. G., Mullineaux, L. S., Young, C. M. & Manahan, D. T. Larval dispersal potential of the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Nature 411, 77-80 (2001).

  18. Metaxas, A. Spatial and temporal patterns in larval supply at hydrothermal vents in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Limnol. Oceanogr. 49, 1949-1956 (2004).

  19. Metaxas, A. & Commission Internationale pour l'Exploration de la Mer Mediterranee - CIESM, Monaco. in Current challenges in the study of biological communities at deep-sea hydrothermal vents (CIESM, Monaco (Monaco), 2003).

  20. Micheli, F. et al. Predation structures communities at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Ecol. Monogr. 72, 365-382 (2002).

  21. Mullineaux, L. S. & Manahan, D. Deep-sea diaspora: the LARVAE project explores how species migrate from vent to vent. Oceanus 41, 6-9 (1998).

  22. Mullineaux, L. S., Peterson, C. H., Micheli, F. & Mills, S. W. Successional mechanism varies along a gradient in hydrothermal fluid flux at deep-sea vents. Ecol. Monogr. 73, 523-542 (2003).

  23. Shank, T. M. et al. Temporal and spatial patterns of biological community development at nascent deep-sea hydrothermal vents (9 degree 50'N, East Pacific Rise). Deep-Sea Res. (II Top. Stud. Oceanogr. ) 45, 465-515 (1998).

  24. Teske, A., Dhillon, A. & Sogin, M. L. Genomic Markers of Ancient Anaerobic Microbial Pathways: Sulfate Reduction, Methanogenesis, and Methane Oxidation. Biol. Bull. Mar. Biol. Lab. Woods Hole 204, 186-191 (2003).

  25. Tsurami, M. & Tunnicliffe, V. Characteristics of a hydrothermal vent assemblage on a volcanically active segment of Juan de Fuca Ridge, northeast Pacific. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. /J. Can. Sci. Halieut. Aquat. 58, 530-542 (2001).

  26. Tsurumi, M. & Tunnicliffe, V. Tubeworm-associated communities at hydrothermal vents on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, northeast Pacific. Deep Sea Res. (I Oceanogr. Res. Pap. ) 50, 611-629 (2003).

  27. Van Dover, C. L. et al. Biogeography and ecological setting of Indian Ocean hydrothermal vents. Science (Wash. ) 294, 818-823 (2001).

  28. Van Dover, C. L. The Ecology of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents. Princeton University Press, 424 pp. (2000).

  29. Ward, M. E., Jenkins, C. D. & Dover, C. L. M. Functional morphology and feeding strategy of the hydrothermal-vent polychaete Archinome rosacea (family Archinomidae). Can. J. Zool. /Rev. Can. Zool. 81, 582-590 (2003).

  30. Yancey, P. H. Organic osmolytes as compatible, metabolic and counteracting cytoprotectants in high osmolarity and other stresses. J. Exp. Biol. 208, 2819-2830 (2005).