Almost all life on land and in the ocean relies on sunlight as the ultimate source of energy (via photosynthesis), even though that energy may have been relayed through other life forms along the way. But these tubeworms are part of an ecosystem that relies instead on inorganic chemicals emitted from deep-sea vents (underwater geysers). Bacteria that use these chemicals are the key to converting energy into a form that can be used by other creatures such as these giant tubeworms (Riftia pachyptila and Tevnia jerichonana). The bacteria and the host animal live in symbiosis. The host gathers carbon dioxide and water, from which the bacteria manufacture food using energy acquired from the oxidisation of hydrogen sulfide. This process is known as chemosynthesis.
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Photograph by Peter Batson
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