Hunt for 'Black Smokers'
an Internet Treasure Hunt on Hydrothermal Vents

created by UniServe Science

Introduction | The Questions | Internet Resources


We are heading down to the depths of the ocean to investigate the world of hydrothermal vents, also known as 'black smokers', and the life forms that exist there.

'Black smokers' provide a unique environment and the organisms display unique features. They may provide us with a clue to how life originated on Earth.

These questions will guide you to an understanding of how hydrothemal vents form and the food webs that they support.

If you wish to read an account on how and when they were first discovered, you will find one at Life without Light: Discoveries from the Abyss.


  1. Explain why scientists think that 'black smokers' may have played a key role in our understaning of the origin of life.

  2. Examine why it is necessary to study hydrothermal vents.

  3. Explain what is meant by the term 'extremophiles' and outline the environments in which they are found.

  4. Outline how a 'black smoker' is formed.

  5. Explain how a knowledge of present day 'black smokers' can help explain mineral deposits and fossils on land.

  6. Describe the location of hydrothermal vents both in relationship to seafloor features and worldwide distribution.

  7. Discuss the geological features found at hydrothermal vents ('black smokers').

  8. Identify the chemicals found around a hydrothermal vent.

  9. Compare 'black smokers' and 'white smokers'.

  10. Explain how tube worms colonize the hydrothermal vents.

  11. Explain why sulfides are so toxic to most life forms.

  12. Describe the range of organisms found at 'black smokers'.

  13. Discuss why tubeworms have been described as 'animals that shouldn't exist'.

  14. Explain why organisms at 'black smokers' can exist in waters that are above 100 degrees Celsius.

  15. Outline ways in which organisms might colonize hydrothermal vents.

  16. Compare photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.

  17. Discuss the role of bacteria in food webs found at hydrothermal vents.

  18. Identify at least six organisms found at 'black smokers'.

  19. Describe at least four organisms found at 'black smokers'.

  20. Explain why scientists think that life may have begun at the ocean depths.

The Internet Resources

The Big Question

What are main aspects of this topic? What are hydrothermal vents? Where are they found? How are they formed? What conditions exist at hydrothermal vents? What organisms are found at hydrothermal vents? What is the significance of these organisms in our understanding of the origin of life on Earth.

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Last Update: Monday, 30-Apr-2012 14:52:24 AEST