Aliens of the Deep Seas

350 Degrees Is Bathwater to These Animals
By Stephen Leahy


Hydrothermal vent

PUERTO AYORA, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador , Jul 5 (IPS) – Marine scientists returned to the Galapagos Islands this week to celebrate a discovery that Charles Darwin never dreamt of: bizarre animals that live in total darkness around active deep-sea volcanoes.

Thirty years ago, researchers found the first chimney spewing super-hot water — called a hydrothermal vent — 2,500 metres below the surface on the sea floor, with its own thriving¬† animal community. That life could prosper without sunlight or photosynthesis changed forever the very definition of what constitutes “life” on the Earth. And it opened a new window on the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe.

After all, if a tiny shrimp can live in total darkness, under tonnes of pressure in a toxic chemical soup boiling away at 350 degrees C, why could not life take hold on some distant planetoid where conditions might not be so harsh?
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