Hydrothermal vents were first identified in the 1970s in the Pacific Ocean. Today, scientists have discovered more than a thousand vents, including these beauties off the coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica.

Photograph courtesy NOAA
  • On February 17, 1977, scientists explored undersea hydrothermal vents for the first time. The vents were found just north of the Galapagos Islands, off the Pacific coast of South America.
    Hydrothermal vents have since been found throughout the ocean, including the mid-ocean ridge in the Atlantic. Vents can reach temperatures up to 672 Kelvin (750 degrees Fahrenheit). These vents support animal and bacterial life unlike any other on the planet. Animals such as 2-meter (6-foot) tubeworms and half-meter (1.6-foot) wide clams live in these harsh environments. These creatures use the heat and minerals expelled from the vents to thrive in the deep sea. Without the vents, few organisms could survive the ecosystem’s intense pressure and lack of sunlight.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bacteria Plural Noun

    (singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    ecosystem Noun

    community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem
    environment Noun

    conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

    expel Verb

    to eject or force out.

    hydrothermal vent Noun

    opening on the seafloor that emits hot, mineral-rich solutions.

    intense Adjective

    extreme or strong.

    mid-ocean ridge Noun

    underwater mountain range.

    mineral Noun

    inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.

    ocean Noun

    large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ocean
    organism Noun

    living or once-living thing.

    pressure Noun

    force pressed on an object by another object or condition, such as gravity.

    temperature Noun

    degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

    Encyclopedic Entry: temperature
    thrive Verb

    to develop and be successful.