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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.
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Image copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union. Further electronic distribution is not allowed.

Creatures which live in Harsh Environments

On Earth, we know that there are many types of living things that are able to live in difficult environments. The picture to the left shows an example of some of these creatures. These are tubeworms that live near hydrothermal vents on the seafloor. There, a hydrothermal vent, which is like an undersea volcano, heats the seawater making the environment very hot. It is completely dark because light cannot penetrate through that much water and there is a lot of pressure from the weight of the water above.

Yet these tubeworms and other creatures are adapted to survive in this harsh environment. The worms are very large, up to two meters (6.6 feet) long! Can you imagine a worm the size of a basketball player? They live near hydrothermal vents in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The worms 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 help the tubeworms by making food from the 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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The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

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