Tubeworms on a Hydrothermal Vent

Preview Riftia tubeworm (Riftia pachyptila) colonies near hot spring.
(©2003 MBARI)

Riftia tubeworm (Riftia pachyptila) colonies grow where hot, mineral-laden water flows out of the seafloor in undersea hot springs—such as the Guymas Basin of the Gulf of California at 2,000 meters (6562 feet), where MBARI took this photo. As volcanic activity deep below the seafloor changes, sometimes these hot springs stop flowing. In this case, the entire worm colony may die off. But new hot springs appear in other areas, and these are colonized by tubeworm larvae within a year or so. Marine biologists at MBARI are studying how rapidly the tubeworms can colonize new hot springs, which may be dozens or hundreds of miles from the old ones. Listen to a podcast about Riftia from One Species at a Time.