Macalester Reviews in Biogeography


Since their discovery in 1977, the ecological communities found at deep-sea hydrothermal vents have provided many surprises about life on Earth in extreme conditions and continue to instill much curiosity in scientists that study their systems as well as those simply interested in Earthʼs biodiversity. This review paper will attempt to provide a general overview of as many aspects of hydrothermal vents and their associated fauna as possible. The general geological processes that produce these systems and the chemosynthesis which sustains abundant life at these depths will first be covered. A basic overview of hydrothermal vent ecology, including some key organisms and general succession patterns will be taken up next. Dispersal ability, which plays a crucial role in facilitating the colonization of new habitat, structuring communities, and allowing for speciation through barriers to gene flow, will be considered. The biogeography of hydrothermal vent biotic assemblages globally will be an important topic and factors that influence it will be considered at length. Finally, what is currently known about the evolution of vent fauna will be briefly examined along with a theory which speculates on the origin of life on Earth at hydrothermal vents.