Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 20 Issue 01

View Issue TOC
Volume 20, No. 1
March 2007

Responsible Science at Hydrothermal Vents

Colin W. Devey | Dynamics of the Ocean Floor Research Division, Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Kiel, Germany
Charles R. Fisher | Department of Biology, the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
Steven Scott | Department of Geology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

First Paragraph

Hydrothermal systems of deep-sea spreading centers stand out as islands of life on a seafloor where the abundance of megafauna is otherwise very low. These hydrothermal systems support a dense biomass of microbes and animals in an ecosystem that relies on chemosynthesis for energy. Hydrothermal systems are relatively rare features of the vast, deep seafloor. Current data suggest that hydrothermal systems probably occur every 50–100 km and that around 1000 systems are active at any one time (Baker and German, 2004); however, only about 10 percent of the total 60,000 km of the global mid-ocean ridge has been surveyed in any detail for the presence of hydrothermal activity. Although some individual sites cover an area the size of a football stadium and are described as being “large,” on the expanse of the seafloor they, too, represent a minute area.


Devey, C.W., C.R. Fisher, and S. Scott. 2007. Responsible science at hydrothermal vents. Oceanography 20(1):162–171, http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2007.90.