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Name: williamh
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
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Date: Around 1993

Are there biological communities near hydrothermal vents in the ocean? Is there any life inside the hydrothermal vent?

If the presence of microorganisms in hot springs and geysers are any indication, I am certain there is life inside hydrothermal vents. These heat loving organisms are termed "thermophiles" and thrive where other life dies. They are able to survive in extreme heat due to the unique way their proteins are synthesized. The May 1993 Discover has a special article on thermophiles.


Life at high temperature became very interesting to molecular biologists recently. The enormously useful technique known as PCR, (polymerase chain reaction), by which very small amounts of rare DNA can be amplified to large concentrations (Jurassic Park!), depends on having a DNA polymerase (the enzyme that synthesizes complementary DNA strands during replication of chromosomes), that can work at high temperatures, or at least can survive repeated high temperature cycles. PCR depends on synthesis of DNA followed by forced separation of the daughter strands at high temperature, followed by new synthesis, to amplify DNA exponentially. At any rate, normal bacterial polymerase will not work because the high temperature cycles kill it. Enter the now infamous, patented Taq polymerase, isolated from Thermus aquaticus, a hot spring bacterium, which works after heating to up to 94 C! So knowledge of life at high temperature allowed molecular biologists to get PCR to work, with all its benefits in cloning very rare genes and amplifying small amounts of DNA for forensic work etc.


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