Harvard student Colleen Cavanaugh proposed and later confirmed the tube worms survived because of their relationship with chemosynthetic bacteria. The oxidation reactions of inorganic compounds release a substantial amount of energy which assists to fuel this process.
So how exactly does this process work? Photosynthesis and chemosynthesis are both processes by which organisms produce food; photosynthesis is powered by sunlight while chemosynthesis runs on chemical energy. Download larger version mp4, Microbes are extremely adaptable to harsh environment conditions and it is believed that extremophiles could be found in every unimaginable place on Earth.
During chemosynthesis, bacteria use the energy derived from the chemical oxidation of inorganic compounds to produce organic molecules and water. If the molecules are organic, the organisms are called chemoorganotrophs.
Other bacteria make organic matter by reducing sulfide or oxidizing methane. Chemosynthesis occurs in environments where sunlight is not able to penetrate, such as in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, coastal sediments, volcanoes, water in caves, cold seeps in the ocean floor, terrestrial hot springs, sunken ships, and within the decayed bodies of whales, among many others.
Chemosynthetic bacteria use the energy stored within inorganic chemicals to synthesize the organic compounds needed for their metabolic processes.
Instead, they can use inorganic energy sources, such as sulfur chemolithoheterotrophs or organic energy sources, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids chemoorganoheterotrophs.