When you go to the beach, have you ever looked down at the water and wondered, “What’s down there?” The ocean is huge. As in MASSIVELY HUGE. According to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), only 5% of the ocean has been explored and charted by humans.

In our last blog, we talked about the not-very-bat-creature-like Vampire Squid and the ancient (but not really) Nautilus. This month, we’re going to be diving a bit deeper into the lowest parts of the ocean, where you’ll find creatures that can survive in the most extreme environments.

The scariest thing about the ocean is not knowing what’s hiding in it. Hopefully, the things you learn in this series will shine some light on the abyss and help you be a little less scared of the watery parts of our planet.

…or will it?

The Pompeii Worm

Named after the ancient Roman city that was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius, this seemingly simple worm is found by some of the (appropriately) hottest places in the world! They are normally found around the East Pacific Rise (around 2,500 meters deep).

Here are three facts about these strange, wiggly wanderers:

  • Pompeii worms are extremophiles, which means they thrive in some of our planet’s most extreme conditions. They live next to hydrothermal vents, which can reach temperatures of up to 105 degrees Celsius, or 221 degrees Fahrenheit! Imagine the hottest summer at the beach you’ve ever had, and double the temperature, then you’ll know how hot it can get around them!
  • They can survive in this environment because they secrete a special mucous that special bacteria like to eat. In turn, they form a “fleece” coat that keeps the worm safe from its surroundings. The worm is safe, and the bacteria gets free food. It’s a win-win for everyone (or mutualistic)!
  • In addition to the bacteria, the worm darts in and out of holes near the hydrothermal vents, bringing in cool, oxygen-rich water in the hot, nutrient-rich vents, making things a bit more comfortable for them. Not as cozy as a living room, but good enough for the Pompeii worm!

The Volcano Snail

Continuing on our heat-proof theme, the next animal on our list is the scaly-foot gastropod, or simply known as the volcano snail! Appropriately named (considering its habitat), the volcano snail is found around 2800 meters deep in the ocean, similar to the Pompeii worm. However, there’s something a bit different about these snails compared to their land-dwelling cousins.

Here are three facts about these scaly sea critters:

  • The feet of volcano snails (which they use to move around) are covered in little tags called sclerites. They’re soft in the middle but covered with a hardened protein that has a layer of iron sulfide, giving it a black metallic appearance. That means this little snail is covered in armor!
  • The snail is completely unique in that it has three layers on its shell. It has the first two normal layers that most snails have (a soft organic part and a slightly tougher calcium carbonate part). However, the third layer is covered in iron sulfide, giving it additional protection from animals like crabs and other snail-loving predators!
  • It has a unique organ called an oesophageal gland to hold all the bacteria that give it a majority of its nutrients. To give the bacteria enough oxygen to survive in that organ, the snail has a supersized heart to send oxygen-rich blood to them. The Grinch would be happy knowing that he wasn’t the only one to have a heart grow three sizes!

These animals really took “out of the frying pan and into the hydrothermal vent” very seriously! If you’re interested in learning more about these sea creatures (and other animals you may be curious about), visit the library and check out some books from our non-fiction section! Then, check out our Gale Online Database, where you can learn even more. Hopefully, your knowledge of the deep grows as big as our little armored friend!

Stay tuned next time for the next two animals in the series!