What microbes really do survive in the superhot, sunless conditions of undersea volcanoes? A publication this week by the MBL’s Julie Huber and colleagues describes one type that can stand the heat: methane producers (methanogens), including some unusual ones that feed symbiotically on the hydrogen waste of neighboring microbes. The study, led by scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Many more discoveries are bound to come, as Huber and colleagues set sail in September to launch a major, multi-year effort to describe the mysterious world of microbial life in deep-sea volcanic fluids and rocks.

Hydrothermal vent field at Axial Seamount seen through the porthole of the submersible Alvin. Credit: Mark Spear/WHOI