Hydrothermal Vent Communities: A Global Perspective

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder


Deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities were first discovered over 30 years ago, yet they remain one of the least studied ecosystems on Earth with more than 90% of the global mid-ocean ridge system uninvestigated. Hydrothermal vents are underwater circulatory systems driven by sub-surface volcanic activity in areas of sea-floor spreading. They are known to occur at a variety of locations and depth ranges and are associated with fast-spreading and slow-spreading ridges, back-arc basins, volcanic arcs, and active seamounts. This paper compares and contrasts vent communities of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It also presents dispersal and colonization theories as well as adaptations of the representative species, Riftia pachyptila. Lastly, this paper examines the evolution of vent species and how they are utilized in the search for extraterrestrial life.

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