350 Degrees Is Bathwater to These Animals
By Stephen Leahy
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?