Friday, May 18, 2012

Creatures of the deep: terrifying macro pictures of polychaetes or bristle worms

Polychaete These tiny monsters may look like they are from another planet but they are in fact creatures from our deepest oceans.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT
Deep ocean worm, SEM.
Known as Polychaetes (bristle worms), they survive intense sea pressures where sunlight never penetrates.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT
Deep ocean worm, SEM.
Since the 1970s, scientists have revised their ideas about the deep ocean floor.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT
Deep ocean worm, SEM.
Instead of a barren wasteland, they have discovered diverse communities of creatures that live on and around hydrothermal vents.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT
Deep ocean worm, SEM.
Hydrothermal vents are cracks in the seafloor, usually found around quake zones, volcanoes and the edges of tectonic plates.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT


Deep ocean worm, SEM.
They release superheated water and a cocktail of chemicals that provide a home for creatures like the scale worms.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT

Deep ocean worm, SEM.
Scale worms crawl along the seafloor near a vent, using their vicious-looking teeth to munch on the bacteria and simple organisms that thrive in the hot water and chemical soup.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT

Deep ocean worm, SEM.
The vent community gets its energy from chemistry rather than photosynthesis, since no light reaches the depths.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT

Deep ocean worm, SEM.
This leads to some bizarre relationships: the scale worms are hosts to symbiotic bacteria that may be providing them with nutrients.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT
Deep ocean worm, SEM.
Some scientists believe that the worms may rely on the bacteria to survive.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT

Deep ocean worm, SEM.
They may be monsters from the deep, but their ability to survive in the deep ocean makes scale worms fascinating to researchers like Daniel Desbruyeres, a senior researcher at Ifremer, France. "The deep sea realm is one of the most diverse habitats on Earth," he says, "yet our perception of it is still in its infancy," he said.
Picture: CRASSOUS/SPL/BARCROFT

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