Life Lines

Speaking of Heat

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As the heat of summer drags on…and on…I can’t help but envy heat tolerant animals. The BBC Worldwide actually has a website dedicated to these thermophiles, or heat loving animals.

I would never have guessed that a worm would be the most heat tolerant animal known. Specifically, the Pompeii worms thrive at temperatures up to 80 degrees C in a hydrogen sulfide-rich environment. You can watch the video called “Deep Surprises” here. Imagine temperatures that hot! These worms would probably need a portable heater to survive the comparatively chilly summer temperatures out of the ocean. So jealous.

The worms make excellent neighbors since they live in tubes in the sides of hydrothermal smokers, which are coated with a layer of gel containing bacteria. The worm tubes are a hospitable 50 degrees C with a life-sustaining pH of 7. These findings suggest that the tubes contain mainly seawater. The gel, however, contains vent water. This creates a heat exchanger whereby the seawater can absorb some of the heat from the vents thereby cooling the gel that the bacteria call home.

N. Le Brisa, M. Zbindenb, F. Gaillb. Processes controlling the physico-chemical micro-environments associated with Pompeii worms. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 52: 1071-1083, 2005.


  1. #1 Paul Ian-Scott
    August 23, 2011

    “As the heat of summer drags on…and on…” haha where are you living, we have hardly had a summer in UK and it’s now coming to an end :]