Chemosynthesis and Hydrothermal Vents Junior Breakthrough
Chemosynthesis.” Dive and Discover: Vent Biology. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Chemosynthesis and Hydrothermal Vent Life
So when it comes right down to it, even these life forms ultimately rely on sunlight.The food chain of the chemotrophs begins with Hydrogen Sulfide, a chemical that isreleased at hydrothermal vents. Normal sea water contains sulfate, a stable form ofsulfur unusable by the chemosynthetic bacteria that make up the base of the food chain ata hydrothermal vent.
Chemosynthetic communities are also found in marine settings other than hydrothermal vents. At so-called cold-seeps, where tectonic activity squeezes mineral water out of the ground and around sea bottom petroleum deposits, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide are released. Bacteria use these compounds to make organic molecules, which support a web of symbionts, carnivores, and scavengers.
Chemosynthesis | Hydrothermal Vent | Botany
Most bacteria and archaea cannot survive in the superheated hydrothermal fluids of the chimneys or “black smokers.” But hydrothermal microorganisms are able to thrive just outside the hottest waters, in the temperature gradients that form between the hot venting fluid and cold seawater. These microbes are the foundation for life in hydrothermal vent ecosystems. Instead of using light energy to turn carbon dioxide into sugar like plants do, they harvest chemical energy from the minerals and chemical compounds that spew from the vents—a process known as . These compounds—such as hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen gas, ferrous iron and ammonia—lack carbon. The microbes release new compounds after chemosynthesis, some of which are toxic, but others can be taken in nutritionally by other organisms.
Travel to a world of perpetual night--the deep ocean hydrothermal vents near the Galapagos Rift where life thrives around superheated water spewing from deep inside the Earth. Discovered only in 1977, are home to dozens of previously unknown species. Huge red-tipped , ghostly fish, strange shrimp with eyes on their backs and other unique species thrive in these extreme found near undersea volcanic chains. How is life possible here? In a process called chemosynthesis, microbes at the base of the foodchain convert chemicals from the vents into usable energy. See closeup footage of hydrothermal vents and species in this clip from the IMAX film "Volcanoes of the Deep."
spew from the vents—a process known as chemosynthesis
In a process called chemosynthesis, specialized bacteria create energy from the hydrogen sulfide present in the mineral-rich water pouring out of the vents.
These organisms are not dependent on sunlight and photosynthesis, but instead rely on chemosynthesis, a process in which certain microbes use chemicals in the vent water to produce energy.
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But life based on chemosynthesis is also precarious. The hydrothermal ventsthe source of life-sustaining chemicalscan be extinguished at any time by earthquakes, lava flows, or rock falls. Many vents close after a few months or years, and few seem to survive more than a couple of decades. Once the supply of chemicals stops, the bacteria die and the rest of the fauna either migrates or perishes.
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Despite the total darkness, crushing water pressure, and temperatures that swing from above boiling to near freezing, life is good at hydrothermal vents thanks to chemosynthetic bacteria. Vent faunas have both large biomass and high diversityover 300 species of animals have been found at vents, most living nowhere else on the planet.
Hydrothermal Vent Chemosynthesis
The most extensive ecosystem based on chemosynthesis lives around undersea hot springs. At these hydrothermal vents, a chemical-rich soup bubbles out of the crust and into the bottom of the sea. Boiling hot, saturated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, and more acidic than vinegar, vent waters are deadly to most marine animals.
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Paleontologists have recently proposed that the very first life on Earth was chemosynthetic bacteria. Conditions on the young planet at the time of the oldest fossils had much in common with the harsh conditions found at hydrothermal vents. Without chemosynthesis, our planet might well be little more than a lifeless rock.
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