The deep sea has long been likened to a terrestrial desert. In some ways the analogy is useful, writes marine biologist Cindy Lee Van Dover, for the oceanic floor, like many arid regions of the earth, is low in biomass. She adds, "What life there is, though, is remarkably diverse," sometimes numbering hundreds of species in a single square meter of mud.
That deep-sea diversity is nowhere more pronounced than in the thermal vents that often occur where tectonic plates meet, marked by great lava fields and even active volcanoes (three-quarters of which are underwater). Located, among other places, along the great mountain ridges of the Laurentian Abyss and the Marianas Trench, these vents harbor strange creatures found nowhere else--giant clams and mussels, for example, and 2-meter-long "tubeworms" whose internal organs house sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Discovered only in 1977, these hydrothermal vents, which vary markedly from ocean to ocean, have excited much attention among researchers. Some scholars now believe that life originated in these fiery environments, which have yielded relict species of barnacles, crinoids, and mollusks hitherto known only from the fossil record.
Examining the ecology and geochemistry of the planet's deep-sea vent systems, Van Dover presents a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary, and highly accessible survey of these mysterious places. --Gregory McNamee
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2000
"[Van Dover] writes well and is not above conducting heroic experiments in what I assume is her own kitchen."--Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post Book World
"[An] impressive, eminently readable book. . . ."--Ellis L. Yochelson, American Scientist
"Foremost in understanding the ecology of hydrothermal vents has been Cindy Van Dover. "--Paul A. Tyler, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
"The strength of Van Dover's book is that it is academically definitive. . . Coverage is comprehensive, and detailed geophysical, chemical and biological issues are taken in their stride with the same sureness of touch."--Richard Shelton, Times Literary Supplement
"A remarkably thorough and balanced, dynamic account of evolving and expanding knowledge of these ocean systems . . . This unique, most up-to-date book on a vast multidisciplinary subject, written enthusiastically and authoritatively, will be an invaluable resource. . ."--Choice
"The book is remarkably thorough and comprehensive and keeps the reader captivated right up to the end. . . . [A] unique source of information on knowledge of an ecosystem that few of us will ever get a chance to see first-hand."--D. Chandramohan, Current Science
"I heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in learning about what is undoubtedly one of the most important discoveries in earth and life sciences of the past century."--John Woodside, The Leading Edge