Bacteria and chemosynthesis

Bottom feeders like limpets graze on microbial mats up to three centimeters thick, and suspension feeders like mussels feed on bacteria floating in the water.

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Other animals, like the Yeti crab, feed on microbes that grow on their surfaces. Some bacteria live as symbiotic partners in the tissues of larger host organisms, like the giant gutless vent tube worms , which are fed by the microbes in exchange for providing them with shelter.

Learn What Chemosynthesis Means in Science

Methanopyrus kandleri is a heat- and salt-loving species of Archaea that makes its home on the chimney walls of smokers. It harvests energy from hydrogen gas and releases methane, a process known as methanogenesis.

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Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic to most animals, including people. However, animals at hydrothermal vents have special biochemical adaptations that protect them from hydrogen sulfide.

Chemosynthetic Ecosystems

One of these hydrogen sulfide-making species is Pyrolobus fumarii or "fire lobe of the chimney" , that was first isolated from a hydrothermal vent at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Pyrodictium abyssi are disc-shaped cells that grow attached to networks of hollow tubes that resemble tree roots. Green sulfur bacteria are unique among hydrothermal vent bacteria because they require both chemical energy from hydrogen sulfide and light energy to survive.

Green sulfur bacteria contain chlorosomes, organelles that are so efficient at harvesting light that green sulfur bacteria can grow at much lower light intensities than other light-requiring microbes. There is no sunlight at hydrothermal vents, and instead they capture energy from the weak radioactive glow emitted from geothermally heated rock.

Extremophiles might have been among the earliest life forms on earth and have possible uses in industry. Skip to main content. The robotic arm of the ROV Quest finds life at an undersea vent. A hot spring above showing different coloration due to chemosynthetic bacteria.

Smithsonian Ocean

There are many different organisms that rely on chemosynthesis to survive. So how exactly does this process work?

On top of these giant tubeworms live chemosynthetic bacteria. These bacteria use chemicals that spring out of nearby hydrothermal vents in order to make their own food.


The sulfides and hot water which can reach temperatures of up to degrees Fahrenheit that come out of the hydrothermal vent combines with carbon dioxide in order for these bacteria to survive in such a harsh environment. Search for:. Image Credit: teara. A hot spring above showing different coloration due to chemosynthetic bacteria Image Credit: wisegeek.

Chemosynthetic Ecosystems | Coastal and Marine Laboratory

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