Hydrothermal Vents

Topics: Hydrothermal vent, Ocean, Deep sea fish Pages: 3 (1043 words) Published: February 22, 2007
In the late 1970's, scientists on a regular study of the ocean floor in the Pacific Ocean made a discovery that would stun the entire scientific community. On the East Pacific Rise not far from the Galapagos Islands, nearly 8000 feet below the surface, was a strange landscape covered with what looked like underwater chimneys secreting clouds of black smoke. Surrounding these chimneys was a unique type of ecosystem that had never been seen before. Until this day, science had always assumed that all life on Earth obtained its energy from the Sun. Plants convert sunlight into energy through a process called photosynthesis. The plants, in turn, provide food and oxygen for countless species of animals in a complex web of life. But here was a sight that challenged those assumptions for the scientific community. Scientists had discovered deep-sea hydrothermal vents. These vents occur in geologically active regions of the ocean floor. Within these regions, seawater seeps down deep into the Earth's crust through cracks and fissures in the ocean floor. This water is then heated by magma below the surface. As the water is heated to a boil, it expands and rises back to the surface. On its way back up, the hot water dissolves minerals and other chemicals from the rock. When it reaches the ocean floor, the water is a dark chemical mixture full of nutrients. Some of the minerals precipitate out of the seawater and harden on the rim of the vent. Over time, the rim of the vent is built up into a tall, chimney-like structure. The dark color of the water coming from these vents has earned them the name "black smokers". The temperature of the water coming out of these vents usually exceeds 360 degrees. Another shock to scientists was the discovery that a countless number of life forms actually live and thrive around these vents, totally cut off from sunlight. Incredible deep-sea creatures and lengendary sea monsters have been known of for quite some time. But before these...
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