Hydrothermal vents, like the one pictured, are absolutely awesome for a variety of reasons. The most interesting reason, in my opinion, is that the communities around the vents are the only communities of organisms on Earth that are not dependent on sunlight or organic matter from the surface.
Chemosynthetic bacteria utilize hydrogen-sulfides emitted by the vents as energy. They are then eaten by other organisms, providing energy for the whole community.
• Hydrothermal vents occur where water seeps down through fissures in the central rift valley of ridges; here, the water becomes heated and rises, extracting minerals from magma.
• These vents are separated into three categories:
- Warm-water vents: <86° F (emit clear water)
- White Smokers: between 86-662° F (emit white water; primarily barium sulfide)
- Black Smokers (including the vent in the picture): >662° F (emit black water; dark metal sulfides such as iron, nickel, copper, and zinc)
• Over 300 species have been found to be members of these deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities, and the existence of these vents was only discovered in 1977!