A Unique Biome
Locations of known hydrothermal vents in the world.
Hydrothermal vents exist at the ocean floor, 2100m (7000ft) below the surface. They exist in many oceans around the world, especially in the Pacific and Atlantic. Usually the ocean floor is covered in a thinly spread amount of life, feeding only on the debris from above. However, the vents are a source of chemical nutrients that bubble up from the oceanic crust. The life around them feeds on those nutrients. The vents are caused when tectonic plates move apart (creating Mid Ocean Ridges) letting seawater under the oceanic crust. As the seawater comes back towards the surface, many minerals and chemicals in the oceanic crust dissolve into the water. The water also is heated as it passes next magma bubbles beneath the surface. As a result, the hot, mineral infused water shoots out of cracks in the crust in these vents. The water is usually heated to around 400˚C (750˚F), much hotter than the seawater at that depth (1-2˚C or 33-36˚F). When the dissolved minerals come in contact with the cool seawater, they solidify, creating the chimneys that are common around the vents. Some chimneys can grow to be huge, like the "Godzilla" vent off the coast of Oregon. It grew to be 15 stories tall before falling over, and is actively rebuilding. Since the first hydrothermal vent was discovered in 1977, the vents have intrigued geologists and marine biologists alike.