Far from sunlight, sulfur supports strange life forms
In 1977 geologists exploring fractures in the ocean floor found more than they had anticipated. Large, odd-looking animals were surviving on the sunless, otherwise barren sea floor by what turned out to be an entirely unknown mode of life §.
Vent food web depends on sulfur--not sunlight.
Bacteria convert chemicals (from the sulfur-rich fluid spewed out of vents) to energy, in a process called chemosynthesis §.
Other animals eat bacteria, harbor bacteria in their bodies, or eat bacteria- eaters.
Vent worms have no mouth or digestive tract. Instead, chemosynthetic bacteria living in their tissues provide nourishment.
Hemoglobin (which transports hydrogen sulfide to
the bacteria) makes the vent worms red.
illustration Linda Huff, courtesy of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society
The super-hot water laced with hydrogen
sulfide and other minerals spews out of cracks in the earth's
Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan
gene carl feldman (email@example.com) (301) 286-9428