Huge, underwater volcanic mountains form long chains spreading along the ocean floors.
These mountains are covered with ocean vents that emit mineral-rich water at temperatures
reaching 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Off the west coast of Mexico, these rifts take the shape
of chimneys 10 to 20 feet high, blowing out puffs of black and white smoke like factory
stacks. These columns of water are hot solutions of dissolved minerals that help feed
certain organisms and provide nutrients to the surface. In cooler water near the openings,
bacteria transform the chemicals into energy, providing the foundation for the food chain.
Other creatures, like 6-foot-long, red-tipped tube worms, absorb organic material from
the water, while foot-long clams mature 500 times faster than their freshwater relatives.