Hydrothermal vents, undersea hot springs that can form along midocean ridges, are sites of rapid ecological and geologic change (see Discover, December 2001, page 40). Still, Tim Shank, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was startled to find that the Rose Garden vent, at the Galápagos Rift, has disappeared. When last seen, in 1990, the Rose Garden (right) was teeming with tube worms and other exotic life. This site has provided scientists with much of what they know about deep-sea hydrothermal ecosystems. "The discovery of how animals interact and use vent fluids for energy, the discovery of symbioses in the gills of tube worms— it's all from Rose Garden," says Shank. After four days exploring the ocean floor, Shank and his colleagues found a fresh lava flow and very young tube worms, clams, and mussels. Recent volcanic activity probably obliterated Rose Garden and gave rise to the new vent site, named Rosebud. The scientists plan to monitor the locale and watch how the vent animals evolve as Rosebud blooms.
Photograph courtesy of Tim Shank and Tim Hammond/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution