Explore the Deep Sea

Life in the Deep

Microbes

Tiny but very important for life around hydrothermal vents

Microbes at the base of the deep-sea food chain

Immense numbers of microbes in the water around a seafloor vent. Image courtesy of M. Holland

Microbes are single-celled organisms. But though they're small, they are hugely important in the deep ocean, where they are found in countless billions. Thanks to microbes, we find a teeming abundance of animals around many volcanoes and vents on the seafloor. Microbes provide food for deep-sea animals in two ways:

Microbe basics

Two main kinds of microbe live in the deep sea: bacteria and archaea.

Amazing heat resistance

Certain species of microbe found around deep-ocean volcanoes and vents have evolved the ability to withstand temperatures that would kill humans and most other organisms. Around deep-sea vents, certain microbes can grow at temperatures of up to 115°C (240°F). Many scientists think that some day we will discover microbes that can thrive in temperatures up to 145°C (295°F).

Some microbes manufacture their own food

Microbes can be classed into two main groups depending on their food source.

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