Parchment worms (Chaetopterus variopedatus) construct tubes in underwater sediment and constantly pump water through the structures to collect oxygen. Cable bacteria (Desulfobulbaceae) act like electrical wires, connecting to the tube lining and providing electrons that react with the oxygen, generating energy for the microbes. The bacteria extend radially in the mud to gather these electrons from sulfide—compounds often produced by nearby bacteria.
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Nicoletta Lanese is a former intern at The Scientist. Follow her on Twitter @NicolettaML.