Pacific Hydrothermal 


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Mat color

A sample of the diversity of life living around hydrothermal vents in the Pacific

Starting from the top and going down we have:

A forest of of Giant Tube Worms (Riftia pachyptila) bordered by a thicket of their smaller cousins, Jericho Worms (Tevnia Jerichonana).

In the right top is an enlarged view of a Pompeii Worm (Alvinella pompejana), one of the most heat-tolerant multicellular animals. Pompeii worms, which live in thin-walled tubular dwellings along the sides of hydrothermal vents, can tolerate temperatures up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it is not entirely clear how the worms survive, it is believed that the white fleece of bacteria on their backs may provide some insulation from the heat.

To the left is a Pacific Grenadier (Coryphaenoides acrolepis) a common deep-sea fish often found hunting and scavenging near vents. To the right is an Eelpout (Thermarces cerberus), the top predator of the vent ecosystem.

Below the Jericho Worms is a field of Vent Mussels (Bathymodiolus thermophilus) interspersed with several giant, ivory-white Vesticomid Clams (Calyptogena magnifica)

At the bottom of the picture is a Blue Mat, a field of tiny tubular dwellings-- called lorica-- secreted by folliculinid ciliates (Folliculinopsis sp.). In the middle of the mat is a magnified view of several of these ciliates with their arm-like peristomal feeding lobes extended.

Crawling around the field of mussels and worms are several Vent Crabs (Bythograea thermydron) along with a Vent Octopus (Vulcanoctopus hydrothermalis), and a Yeti Crab (Kiwa hirsuta).

In the lower left corner are several Deep-Sea Stauromedusae (Lucernaria janetae). Stauromedusae are jellyfish that permanently attach themselves to a hard substrate using a short stalk.

Lastly on the bottom right is a Vent Dandelion (Thermopalia taraxaca), a colonial scavenger related to Portuguese Man-o-wars and other siphonophores.


Pacific Hydrothermal Vent  ©2013 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved