Tube worms like it hot, but larvae not

8:56pm, November 19, 2001

The larvae of some tube worms that attach themselves to the seafloor around hydrothermal vents can't stand the heat there. If they drift into chilly waters, however, they go into suspended animation until they find water at a temperature in between. This phenomenon, researchers say, could explain how animals of nonmobile species that depend upon the hot water and nutrients gushing from isolated vent systems can nonetheless be found at widely dispersed locations.

The tube worm species Alvinella pompejana live around vent systems all along the East Pacific Rise, an undersea geological formation that stretches for thousands of miles. These worms thrive in water temperatures between 20 and 80C, says Franoise Gaill, a marine biologist at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

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