2005). The rules for deep-sea life are different than those for terrestrial species. Stratification plays an important role in species classification in vent environments. As the chimney grows in height the environment changes.
Tarasov and associates believe that deep-sea vents have a longer evolutionary history then shallow vents found closer to the surface. This is an important factor in understanding how hydrothermal vents are connected to early life on planet earth. Deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities represent a different phenomenon than shallow water vents. The chemical processes that take place in the deep-sea vent communities are very different from those in shallow areas. Shallow vent species receive light from the sun and more closely resemble terrestrial life forms. However, this is not so with deep-sea forms. Hydrothermal plumes are a rising column of hot water that can have sharp definitions in microhabitats. Similar species found inside the plume and outside of the plume can be distinguished as being different from one another (Nakagawa, Takai, and Fumio 2005). Govenar and associates (2005) found that changes in species could signal changes in vent temperature and other conditions. Studying these phenomenons could have significant implications for study of the earth's core and monitoring temperature fluctuations that could be associated with volcanoes or other tectonic phenomenon. Monitoring species near hydrothermal vents could lead to a new method for monitoring the Earth's core.
The conditions under which many vent species exist are precarious to say the least. A certain crab species that lives in the high sulphur vents in the shallow waters off Taiwan had to develop an interesting adaptation in order to feed. These crabs live an environment that is low in nutrients. Their natural diet consists of zooplankton. In order to survive the crabs had to learn to eat the zooplankton that falls like snow on to the sea floor. The zooplanktons that comprise the diet of these crabs were killed when they got too close to the sulfurous plumes of the vent (Jeng, Ng, and Ng 2004). The crabs simply clean up the debris.
Many species that live within the hypodermic vent area must exist within a very narrow range of temperature, pH, and chemical content of the water. One of the more interesting topics concerning these species is how a particular species can inhabit two different vents. Ocean currents and the topography of the ocean floor play a major role in the dispersal of creatures. It has been found that in some areas the topography of the floor itself may be a limiting factor in the ability of species to travel from one vent to another (Thompson et al. 2003). Due to the narrow habitat in which these creatures can survive, many times a creature will be transported to an environment where it will not be able to live. However, in some cases the species may be able to adapt to the new area. The species will have a major impact on the natural habitat that already exists in the area. They will represent a new predator in new prey for other species. They may also introduce new chemical processes to the vent system.
Hot springs on the sea floor and on land may be some of the oldest populated habitats on earth. The interactions between water in the rock surrounding the vent provide a variety of energy sources to sustain life (Reysenbach and Shock 2002). Changes in these micro environments also give us clues that changes are going on within the earth's core. As a micro environment begins to shift species must learn to adapt to these changes or die. For instance, a die off of one species could mean that drastic changes have occurred in one of the essential conditions necessary for that specie's survival. Levels of various species would also give as clues as to environmental changes as well. These habitats could do more than simply give us clues about the beginnings of life on earth. They can give us clues as to the internal workings of the earth itself.
Five biogeographic regions are recognized on the ocean floor. Exploring evolutionary similarities and differences in the flora and fauna at the vents tells us about the specific conditions that exist within that area (Van Dover, Humphris, and Fornari 2001). Biology in these areas can tell us much more about geology than was once thought. For instance, let us consider the larval stage of the giant tube worm. The larval stage of the giant to worm is around 38 days. The dispersal of these creatures can tell us about flow patterns and around the ocean floor's hypodermic vents (Marsh, Mullineaux, Young and Manahan, 2001). Marsh and associates found that these tube worms on the East Pacific Rise rarely exceeded distance of 100km. Tube Worms are dependent upon ocean floor currents to disperse their larva. Reversals and unique flow patterns along the ridge were found by tracking larva dispersal. The lifespan of these larva and many other creatures can now be used to study ocean currents at and between different hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
In conclusion, life at hydrothermal vents is precarious and dynamic. A life-giving vent may suddenly appear or disappear. Life in hydrothermal vents gives us a glimpse of how the first life-forms may have evolved on earth. However, recent attention has been directed towards discovering what these species can tell us about their environment. This important paradigm shift changes the way we have traditionally viewed the relationship between biology and geology. Life around hydrothermal vents can give us many clues about changing tectonic conditions within the earth's core.
DeChaine, E. And Cavanaugh, C. 2006. Presence of post larval alvinocaridid shrimps over south-west Indian Ocean hydrothermal vents, with comparisons of the pelagic biomass at different vent sites Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 86 (1): 125-128.
Govenar, B., Le Bris, N., and Gollner, S. 2005. Epifaunal community structure associated with Riftia pachyptila aggregations in chemically different hydrothermal vent habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series,. 305: 67-77.
Jeng, M., Ng, K., and Ng, P. 2004. Feeding behaviour: Hydrothermal vent crabs feast on sea 'snow' Nature. December 2004. 432 (7020): 969.
Kelley, D., Karson, J., and Blackman, D. 2001. An off-axis hydrothermal vent field near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 30 degree N. Nature. July 12, 2001. 412 (6843): 145-149.
Lutz, R., Shank, R. And Evans, R. 2001. The Life After Death in the Deep Sea. American Scientist. September-October, 2001. 89 (5): 422-431.
Marsh, a., Mullineaux, L., Young, C., and Manahan, D. 2001. Larval dispersal potential of the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Nature. May 3, 2001. 411 (6833): 77-80.
Martins, V. Costa, F. Porteiro, a. Cravo and R.S. Santos. 2001. Mercury concentrations in invertebrates from Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vent fields.
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK. 81: 913-915.
Nakagawa, S., Takai, K. And Fumio I. 2005. Distribution, phylogenetic diversity and physiological characteristics of epsilon-Proteobacteria in a deep-sea hydrothermal field. Environmental microbiology. October 2005, 7(10): 1619-1632.
Reysenbach, a., Liu, Y., Banta, a., Beveridge, T., Kirshtein, J., Schouten, S., Tivey, M., Von Damm, K. And Voytek, M. 2006. A ubiquitous thermoacidophilic archaeon from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Nature. July 27, 2006. 442, 444-447.
Reysenbach, a. And Shock, E. 2002. Merging Genomes with Geochemistry in Hydrothermal Ecosystems. Science. May 10, 2002. 296 (5570): 1077-1082.
Tarasov, V., Gebrik, a., Mironov, a., and Mosklev, L.…