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Tiger Cowrie Vestimentifera (vent worms) live in deep-sea hydrothermal vents (up to 2 miles below the ocean surface) around volcanic sulfide plumes (drawing © Michigan State University).

Although once classified in their own phylum, Vestimentifera are now recognized as being a member of the phylum Annelida with earthworms, leeches and the marine bristle worms.

Hydrothermal vent biota (vent worms, crabs, clams and eels) (photo © University of California Santa Barbara).

Vent worms live in a tube and feed by absorbing dissolved sulfide particles from the ocean through their plume. As adults, vent worms do not have a functioning digestive system. They possess symbiotic bacteria that live in the trophosome and can convert the sulfides into chemical energy (similar to the dark reactions of photosynthesis) (photo © Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and drawings © Alissa Arp and Andrice Arp).

Hydrothermal vent community: vent worms, eels, crabs and clams (photo © French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea).

Vent worms and clams: the hydrothermal vent clams possess symbiotic bacteria in the mantle, but it is not an obligate symbiosis like vent worms (photo © The Discovery Channel).

Hydrothermal vent crabs eat the red plumes of the vent worms (photo © University of Delaware).

Several species of vent worms have been discovered worldwide, and a different type of vent worm lives in cold seep environments. Known sites of hydrothermal vents (red) and cold seeps (blue) (map © Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute).

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