WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION, VISUALS UNLIMITED / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION, VISUALS UNLIMITED / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Giant tube worms (Riftia pachyptila) at a hydrothermal vent deep under the Pacific Ocean. These marine invertebrates are a key part of the ecosystem of deep ocean hydrothermal vents. They can tolerate high temperatures, and obtain nutrients from the water by symbiosis with bacteria living in their bodies. The bacteria turn inorganic chemicals produced by the vent, such as hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide, into organic molecules. The white part of a tube worm is made of chitin. The red structures (plumes) contain haemoglobin that combines with hydrogen sulphide and transfers it to the bacteria.
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