diagram showing photosynthetic vs. chemosynthetic food chains
Photosynthetic vs. Chemosynthetic food chains.

microscope image of microbes

microscope image of microbes
Microscopic views of chemosyntetic microbes.

The chemicals in hydrothermal vent fluid would be toxic to most forms of life familiar to us, but amazingly, a unique ecosystem has evolved to live at hydrothermal vents. These organisms are not dependent on sunlight and photosynthesis, but instead rely on chemosynthesis, a process in which certain microbes use chemicals in the vent water to produce energy. They in turn form the base for an entire food chain of animals. Chemosynthetic microbes grow on and below the seafloor and even within other animals at the vents.
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