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Boiling hot, saturated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, and more acidic than vinegar, vent waters are deadly to most marine animals.This noxious brew is paradise to the bacteria that coats the rocks around the vent in thick orange and white mats.
Just a few decades ago, submersibles and remote sensing technologies allowed scientists to visit the farthest reaches of the ocean for the very first time.
Communities of abundant organisms, similar to those which surround the hydrothermal vents of the East Pacific Rise (EPR), occur in 3,266 m of water in the Gulf of Mexico.
They were discovered with the Alvin at 26° 02′ N, 84° 55′ W in an area where pore waters seep from the Cretaceous limestones of the adjacent platform at the contact between the Florida Escarpment and the Holocene hemipelagic sediments of the Abyssal Gulf.
The bacteria absorb hydrogen sulfide streaming from the vents, and oxidize it to sulfur.
They use the chemical energy released during oxidation to combine carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen into sugar molecules.