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These are tubeworms. Each worm is over six feet long and has a protective white tube surrounding a red body that pokes out the top.
Click on image for full size
Image copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union. Further electronic distribution is not allowed.

Creatures which live in Harsh Environments

There are many types of living things that are able to live in difficult environments on Earth. The picture to the left shows an example of some of these creatures. These are tubeworms that live at the bottom of deep oceans near hydrothermal vents, which are like undersea volcanoes. It is not a very welcoming environment in which to live, but the tubeworms manage to survive! The vents heat the seawater, so it's very hot. It is completely dark because light cannot penetrate through so much water. There is also a lot of pressure from the weight of the water above.

Tubeworms live near hydrothermal vents in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Each worm is as tall as a basketball player! They make the tubes themselves to protect from predators such as crabs and fish that might like to nibble a tasty tubeworm.

Tubeworms live with bacteria inside them. The bacteria are helpful, making food from chemicals that come out of the vent and water. The tubeworms help the bacteria get the materials to make the food and provide them with a safe place to live. This relationship is called symbiosis because both creatures benefit from living together.


Last modified June 17, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Traveling Nitrogen is a fun group game appropriate for the classroom. Players follow nitrogen atoms through living and nonliving parts of the nitrogen cycle. For grades 5-9.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF