Hydrothermal Vent Series - Life on the Vents

At first we were told that life depends upon energy from the sun. And then they discovered hydrothermal vents!

White Shrimp near a hydrothermal Vent, Nautilus in the Gulf of Mexico, 2013
Unlike the extremely cold temperatures of the deep ocean, hydrothermal vents produce waters so hot the form is between liquid and gas, (see beginning post Underwater Chimneys). And then to add to this extreme is the toxicity of the water due to the dissolved minerals, making it seemingly safe to conclude no life as we know it is able to survive there. And yet when the Alvin (a manned submersible owned by WHOI) discovered the first vent in 1977, the diversity of life found surpassed any they had seen before.

Obviously a different world with different species, what they discovered was incredibly diverse. A world teeming with life! Sessile organisms and pelagic creatures alike find the vent ecosystem more than suitable for "home life".

But how? How can they survive the poisonous water? And what about the tremendous heat?

Bacterial Mat at Blake Ridge diapir. Picture Courtesy of NOAA

In the world of science, the primary producers of each ecosystem are the organisms that others rely on for survival. Primary producers translate energy to food for the following consumers in the food chain. In a hydrothermal vent community, chemosynthetic bacteria are the important members, the primary producers. Since plant life is unable to grow and the concept of marine snow hardly provides enough food to account for the oasis, other vent organisms depend on the bacteria to translate the toxic energy into usable energy. Growing in thick mats on the surrounding surfaces near hydrothermal vents, chemosynthetic bacteria is grazed upon by small invertebrates like amphipods and copepods. Larger organisms like eels, crabs, jellyfish and even octopus, feed on these smaller organisms and thus continues the hydrothermal vent food chain of predator and prey.

This ecosystem can never be described as merely managing to survive, but more properly as flourishing. The bacteria provides plentiful energy for the organisms in the community.

Large numbers of vent shrimp and mussels feed on the white flocculent mats on the periphery of white smokers, showing that microorganisms are channeling energy up the food chain. Picture courtesy of NOAA

Many scientists take advantage of this deep-sea anomaly to expostulate on the theories of our origin, saying life may have begun at these points. But sadly, this is just another useless grasp for those striving to find the reason for life in other places than the true account. No sketchy gaseous explosion or bubbling pot can create the intricacy we are surrounded by. The account in Genesis is much more plausible.

Thank you for reading this weeks installment of the Hydrothermal Vent Series. Be sure to come back soon to find out how these incredible creatures can withstand the heat!

Hydrothermal Vent Series - Underwater Chimneys

Like a lit fuse running along the surface of the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are frequently found in areas of volcanic activity, such as mid-ocean ridges!

ROPOS is in position for hot fluid sampling at this black smoker vent. Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2002, NOAA/OER.

In the depths of the ocean, vents on the seafloor spew out superheated water in clouds of black or sometimes white. The 'smoke', or plumes, carry minerals up through the vents and consequently, chimneys begin to grow as the minerals build on each other. Because of the great temperatures, much of the minerals are dissolved in the water and released into the ocean.

With so much volcanic activity on our geologically changing planet it stands to reason we would have the same examples of volcanism in the ocean. Similar to hot springs and geysers on land, hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor are examples how the Earth's crust is just as volatile below sea level. Often located along areas where tectonic plates are pulling apart, hydrothermal vents have a lifespan of 20-30 years and their chimneys can grow to be as large as 40 metres! A magnificent feat considering their fragility.

Hydrothermal vents attain their water as it seeps through cracks in the seafloor to the rocks, already heated by magma, just under the Earth's surface. The temperatures at these sites will reach approximately 700° F; 500 degrees more than waters' boiling point. Explorers have built ROV's and equipment especially to withstand these temperatures but even then it still gets the best of some.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the hostile climate that exists around hydrothermal vents the last thing one would expect to find is life. And yet despite our presumptions, there is a thriving ecosystem on these toxic vents: tube worms, translucent jellyfish, crabs and shrimp, all of phenomenal size. Also in great quantities are mats of bacteria. All of these depend completely on the existence of hydrothermal vents. When a vent 'dies', so does its occupants.

In the posts to come I will delve a little deeper into certain aspects of hydrothermal vents, such as the types of creatures in their ecosystem and how they survive, expeditions, and attempts at exploitation. Come back soon to read more!

In My Backyard - Issue #15 - Puppies!

Normally, the creatures I talk about on these posts are pretty unusual. But when you have a garage full of adorable little puppies, how could you choose anything else?!

Lucy with her babies

Once again I've let my work get the best of me and leave me with nothing to give to my writing. That's the only excuse I have for not blogging in so long. So many good intentions that never reach their full potential. But finally, today I have set aside some time. So welcome to another issue of In My Backyard!

We first realized Lucy, our Chocolate Labrador, was pregnant only a few weeks before she gave birth. It was strange because Mum and I are with the animals the most and usually notice these things. So obviously, when she started showing signs of labor, we couldn't help but get worried. We thought it was too soon.

You see, she lost her last litter and was very sick herself. We never knew why. The first sign that something wasn't well at that time was how much she drank. So when she started drinking more this time we started praying hard that she wouldn't lose this litter as well. It turned out it was just because of the labor and heat. She gave birth to seven healthy little puppies! Praise God!

Now, only 11 days old, the little things are pushing themselves up on their feet! We just learned that not only do puppies eyes stay closed for a week or more, but their ears do as well. They find their mother with smell alone. So far we've concluded that they are late bloomers.

We have four boys and three girls. Two brown, two dark brown/black, and three black. Just earlier we were taking some pest control measures and I held them on their back till they were content and let Mum do what she needed to. The sweet things would stretch out in my hands, yawn, and heave a great sigh before relaxing and going to sleep. One of them, a black female with white (the only white in the litter, matter of fact), I placed slowly on her back with her head resting on her mother's paw. It stayed there, looking so precious and innocent!

We are telling people to "pre-order", so if you are in our vicinity, send me a message!

Next week I'm starting a series on Hydrothermal Vents. Be sure to check back soon!