Citizens of the deep

With this challenge of somehow dispersing from oasis to oasis, life at deep-sea vents perhaps seems strange to us, but these systems may be a microcosm for life in the Universe. We live clustered around a life-giving star, separated from other solar systems by relatively vast distances. And our home will not last forever either.

Our Sun is doomed to run out of its hydrogen fuel eventually. Even before then, its gradual brightening will boil away the oceans within the next billion years or so, making our planet uninhabitable. So life on Earth faces a similar challenge to the inhabitants of the oases on the ocean floor: disperse or die out.

To escape extinction, we might even take a tip from them. Like the adult animals at vents, Earthly life-forms may be so adapted to their planetary habitat that they cannot cross the void to another habitable world. If so, we may need to devise 'larval forms' to make that journey instead - and those forms might be very different to their progenitors, just as they are in vent species. After all, the larvae of vent creatures are really just vehicles that carrying the genetic instructions to grow adult forms somewhere else.

So maybe one day our descendents will also somehow disperse across a dark abyss to another life-giving oasis. But until then, the inhabitants of deep-sea vents remind us there is still much to explore in our ephemeral home - and all the more reason to revel in its wonders.

Page 1: A golden age of exploration
Page 2: Secret ingredients of life at vents
Page 3: Life finds a way
Page 4: Island-hopping in the abyss
Page 5: Twilight of the Gods


Find out more about the Cayman Trough, undersea volcanoes, deep-sea vents,
and the inhabitants of the abyss.
What are we investigating?