Samoa Bacteria, Please
Deep ocean “hot spots” supporting vast communities of organisms both microbial and macrobial, and are commonly found near ocean floor hydrothermal vents. The base of the food chain in these types of communities are bacterial mats that thrive on organic and sulfur-based compounds released from these volcanic vents. The images above, courtesy of an NOAA submersible robot explorer, depict some of these microbial mats and the creatures who live on and among them.
Blowing Cave in Independence County, Arkansas is home to several colonies of microbes that have grown to form appreciable mats. A product of the region’s Karst limestone geology influenced by eons of hydrological cycles, the caves have evolved an ecology harsh to most forms of life but to specific types of microbes it is, like Goldilocks’ ideal bowl of porridge, just right. Flickr member Dave Thomas visited the cave in 2008, and he’s seen above taking samples from one of the cave’s microbial mats.
We may think of worms and bacteria as “primitive” lifeforms but give ’em some credit for being around for many hundreds of millions of years. Take the tubeworm species Lamellibrachia luymesi, for example. Dwelling on the seafloor of the northern Gulf of Mexico, these marine worms have formed a symbiotic relationship with orange-colored, sulfide-oxidizing, Beggiatoa bacteria. The microbes oxidize sulfide compounds into forms the worms can digest and in return, Lamellibrachia luymesi provide the bacteria with hydrogen sulfide and oxygen. It is also thought that bacteria of this type have the ability to break down complex hydrocarbons and play a great role in dissipating oil spills both natural and man-made.