In February of 1977, a team of geologists led by Richard Von Herzen and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution discovered the first hydrothermal vents 8,000 feet below the ocean’s surface in the Galápagos Rift. There were no biologists on the original expedition because no one had expected to find life thriving in the perpetual darkness of the ocean depths. Therefore, it wasn't until 1979, during a separate expedition led by marine scientist J. Frederick Grassle, that biologists got their first look at the unique ecosystems of the vents. Watch some of the first images taken of the organisms of the Galápagos Rift vents in this slide show.
DNA from the 40,000-year-old bones of a modern human found in Europe contains Neanderthal genes.