This Day in History: 1977-02-19
Researchers using DSV Alvin discover species living around hydrothermal vents. During an expedition to investigate floor of the Pacific Ocean off the Galapagos Islands in the search for hydrothermal vents researchers found not only the vents that they were searching for but also an unexpected community of animals. Previously unknown species of worms, clams and crabs were seen thriving around the geothermal hot water vents. The food-chain of this unique ecosystem depends on chemosynthesis (deriving energy through chemical reaction) with bacteria oxidizing hydrogen sulphide contained in the output of the vents, forming a food-chain independent of sunlight.
Since then around 300 new species of animals, including gastropods, 30cm long clams and mussels, shrimp, arthropods, and red-tipped tube worms that can grow up to 2.4m long have been documented.
Among other taxa Alvin is honoured in the names of a family of deep-sea polychaete worms endemic to hydrothermal vents and two of its genera, along with a number of species under alvini.