Black smokers were first discovered in the late 1970s. The warm, chemical-rich environments around them have been found to be home to hundreds of new species, including previously unknown types of giant clams, crabs, and pink brotulid fish. One type of organism, a reddish worm known as vestimentiferan, which builds and lives in a tube up to 7.5 m (25 ft.) long, is so different from any other known animal that it has been classified in a phylum of its own. At the base of the food chain are chemoautrophic archaea that use chemical energy derived from the breakdown of hydrogen sulfide to build organic compounds.
In May 2000, Australian scientists retrieved a 2.7m-long, gold-laced black smoker from the floor of the Bismark Sea, at a depth of 2 km, off Papua New Guinea. It was caught accidentally in the dredge frame of the Research Vessel Franklin, which was being operated by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
External sitesBlack smokers (American Museum of Natural History)
Ocean Planet (Smithsonian)
Related category GEOLOGY AND PLANETARY SCIENCE
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