In late 2005 or early 2006, a catastrophic eruption occurred along the East Pacific Rise off the coast of Central America, eradicating a swath of the tube worms
and mussels and other vent dwellers that Mullineaux and her team had been studying for a decade or more.
Gaill suggests that the tube worm
embryos that drift away from the vents or are carried upward by the vent's heated plume quickly reach cool water, enter a state of arrested development, and then ride the ocean currents until they reach a suitably warm spot to continue their growth.
Creatures such as the tube worms
and other species that live near the hydrothermal vents are termed extremophiles, which are life forms that inhabit environments human beings consider "extreme"--habitats that seem to be unsuitable for life.
Explorers in deep sea submersibles like ALVIN saw giant tube worms
, mussels and other creatures living off chemical energy provided by hydrothermal activity in the places where new seafloor is born.
In February 2011, Salon reported that scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia found sea floors in the Gulf that were still coated with oil from the spill--and oil-choked sea creatures including dead crabs, tube worms
and brittle stars littered the ocean floor.
Marine biologists and environmentalists worry that the oil is doing significant harm to populations of tube worms
, tiny crustaceans and mollusks, single-cell organisms and other underwater life forms that shape the building blocks of the marine food chain.
Anti-fouling coatings are also being applied in tidal and wave power installations, which offer a wide range of surfaces for marine organisms such as algae, barnacles, mussels and tube worms
to adhere to.
Yet scientists say that even though it may be out of sight, oil found there could do significant harm to the strange creatures that dwell in the depths - tube worms
, tiny crustaceans and mollusks, single-cell organisms and Halloween-scary fish with bulging eyes and skeletal frames.
These small tube worms
burrow into coral and have tentacles that look like tiny cone-shaped trees and are wildly colored, thus the name Christmas Tree Worms.
The volume is illustrated with more than 100 high-resolution photographs of creatures such as blind crabs, luminous jellyfish, and giant tube worms
Alvin's blue-green headlights panned across a bizarre scene of red-tipped tube worms
, shrimp, and fish crowded around a rocky column spewing smoky water.
Clams the size of dinner plates that reek of sulfur, tube worms
that grow up to 8 feet and ghostly crabs and eel-like fish share the narrow but surprisingly rich life zone around the vents.