hydrothermic worm

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The Pompeii Worm (Alvinella pompejana) the most thermal tolerant animal on earth living in temperatures of 80 degrees celsius!approximately four inches long complete with tentacle like gills on its head coloured red by haemoglobin This species lives by clinging around the ‘smokers’ of the hydrothermal vents of the Pacific Oceans mountain ranges.

To survive in this harsh condition the worm grows a centimetre thick thermal blanket across its back that is composed of colonies of filamentous bacteria. Existing in a symbiotic relationship the bacteria is kept alive by the worm feeding it sugar mucus that is rich in eurythermal enzymes and secreted from tiny glands in its back.This bacterium is kept alive by the Pompeii worm by feeding it sugar mucus that is rich in eurythermal enzymes and secreted from tiny glands in its back.

Animals and Their BFFs

A quick YouTube search will turn up around 15,000 videos documenting oddball interspecies friendships. Among the cats and dogs who have made peace and foxes cuddling up to ducks, there’s one connection we don’t see: that between animals and their microbes, the oldest and most intriguing relationships between species there is. This oddball friendship between animals and microbes, which has existed since animals became animals, continues to shape their evolution and ecology.

Early single-celled eukaryotes, the domain to which animals belong, fed on bacteria at first. Eventually, some 600 million years ago, bacteria were able to live inside eukaryotic cells in mutually beneficial symbioses, creating new opportunities for both.

From these humble beginnings, microbes and animals continue to forge partnerships and collaborate in physiological and ecological functions. Microbes make digestion possible and allow animals to use a variety of resources, sometimes in unexpected ways; for instance, microbial populations allow hydrothermal vent worms to use sulfur in the deep sea, and power the migrations of whales.

Learn more in a Microbiome Monday blog post.