Antarctic Hydrothermal 


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In 2012, a new hydrothermal vent ecosystem was discovered in the waters around Antarctica. Unlike vents in the Pacific and Atlantic, the Antarctic site lacks tube worms, shrimp and mussels.

Instead, these vents are inhabited primarily by pale, long-stalked barnacles (Vulcanolepas sp.) and a new species of Yeti crab (Kiwa sp.) colloquially known as "Hasselhoff crabs" due to the abundance of hair-like setae on their chests and the undersides of their carapaces which reminded researchers of the thorax-carpet of a certain well-known TV star. Like their Pacific relatives, Hoff crabs are believed to feed primarily on bacteria that they cultivate on these hairs. Hoff crabs have been observed congregating in enormous, dense piles at these vents.

Other prominent residents of the Antarctic vents include large, pink Actinostolid anemones, brown Peltospiroid snails, Lepetodrilus limpets (seen here as the lighter brown ovals on the carapace of the Hoff crab in the lower right), vent octopi, several species of pycnogonid sea spiders and huge, seven-armed white seastars that prey on the stalked barnacles. Many of the species haven't yet been given official scientific names.

Vertebrates appear to be rare at these vents, except for the ubiquitous zoarcid eels found at most vent sites throughout the world.

You can check out the original paper here.


Antarctic Hydrothermal Vent ©2013 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved