December

Alvinella pompejana Desbruyeres & Laubier 1980 (FMNH 11369)

The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA

EMu user since 2003

decemberAt depths of over 2000 m (6560 ft.) in the East Pacific Ocean off Central America the ocean floor bulges. From towering chimneys at hydrothermal vents on this bulge, super-heated, mineral-rich water spews into the cold, dark, deep sea and creates a home for Pompeii worms, Alvinella pompejana described by Desbruyères and Laubier in 1980. The worms reportedly tolerate the hottest temperatures of any animal, surviving exposure to temperatures up to 80°C (175 °F). Although they live near the tops of chimneys from which fluid as hot as 400° C (750° F) exits from deep below the seafloor, the tubes the worms build may protect them and channel cooler, ambient sea water across their large 15 cm (6 inch) long bodies. What appear to be white hairs on the back of this Pompeii worm are in fact millions of bacteria that as they grow will provide food for the worm.  This animal was collected in 2003 during a research cruise led by Field Museum curator Janet Voight using the Research Vessel ATLANTIS and the crewed deep-diving submersible ALVIN. Photographed on board the ATLANTIS by P. Batson, the specimen is now preserved in the collections of The Field Museum. This specimen symbolizes the Field Museum's growing collection of exotic and recently discovered animals from the deep sea, the least known habitat on Earth.