Hydrothermal vents are ocean floor geysers that form in areas of high volcanic activity where new seafloor is being created, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The hot fluids from the vent openings contain dissolved metals and other chemicals that sustain unique communities of organisms. The basic level of the food chain is chemoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, but it also includes animals such as the shrimp Rimicaris exoculata. R. exoculata live close to the hydrothermal fluid, where the temperature favors carbon fixation by the symbiotic, epibiotic bacteria that constitute the shrimp's only diet source, but temperatures can also reach lethal peaks as high as 400°C. Little has been known about the physiological and biochemical adaptations of the animals that thrive in this harsh environment, but in the July 15 Journal of Experimental Biology, Juliette Ravaux and colleagues at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie report on the temperature resistance and...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?