Light, Licht, ligera or lumière – what ever you call it we all love a day full of sunshine and if you throw in a few warm gentle breezes we’re set to go. That light that we love so much is something that all life on our planet needs to exist either directly or indirectly.
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use sunlight to produce sugar, which is then converted into another compound called Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the fuel used by all living things. What most of us don’t know there is another way that Mother Nature uses to make the fuel we need that requires no sunlight. It’s called chemosynthesis.
This reaction takes place around deep ocean thermal vents on the ocean bottom. These thermal vents are just like those on the sides of volcanoes only they’re just cracks in the bottom, for the most part. The distribution of the geothermal vents is worldwide. They’re found where the tectonic plates that the continents float on collide, like the mid-Atlantic ridge, which runs from the Arctic circle south until it nearly touches Antarctica.
Chemosynthesis is the process by which some species of bacteria help make this fuel by chemical reactions inside their bodies. These bacteria live on or close under the bottom and use the chemicals coming out of the vents to process into the fuel.
There are hundreds of unique species of grazing animals like snails, slugs, worms and filter feeders, like tube worms, that feed off these bacteria, which grow in great mats around the vents. There are some small and very weird looking species of fish that feed on these invertebrates and bacterial mats. An entirely new class of crabs was discovered. Sometimes these bacteria live inside the bodies of animals around the vents in a symbiotic relationship. These bacteria provide the basis for all life around the vents, without these bacteria the animal populations would be as sparse as the rest of the deep-sea bottom, which is almost nothing.
Because the vents are located in a relatively small area the number of animals crowding around these food sources is high. This is in sharp contrast to the very sparse population of further away from the vents on the abyssal plain. Outside of the vents food is supplied from material that slowly drifts down from the ocean zones above that are exposed to sunlight. All of these species never see a single glimmer of sunlight from the moment they are born until the day they die.
Think Global – Act Local!