The deep sea shrimp (Rimicaris exoculata) (Fig. 1) has colonised some of the most extreme habitats on the planet, areas where super-heated water can reach 350oC and is full of toxic chemicals that is emanated from the earth’s crust (Ravaux et al., 2003). These seemingly uninhabitable environments are called hydrothermal vent systems, they align the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) that cuts through the seafloor of the Atlantic Ocean. These systems are able to support a surprisingly diverse group of organisms that appear to swarm these submerged oases in the expanses of the deep ocean.

Dorsal view of a deep sea shrimp (Rimicaris exoculata).
Fig. 1. Dorsal view of a deep sea shrimp (Rimicaris exoculata). Credit: P. Briand, Ifremer (CoML, ChEss & EoL). Rimicaris exoculata. This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

This shrimp can be seen as being an extreme organism, however its actual perception of extreme is entirely relative. Species that don’t live in the vent system or that have not adapted to this environment would find such conditions to be extreme. However, the shrimp, over millennia, has adapted to these challenging conditions. This blog will take you through some of the adaptations to these vent systems that are exhibited by Rimicaris exoculata.

Firstly, this blog will introduce the habitat of R. exoculata providing some background information on hydrothermal vent formation and locations where this shrimp is found.  Following this, the blog will discuss the feeding methods of R. exoculata and how and why these shrimp effectively farm bacteria to supplement their diet.  The blog will then lead you onto the topic of heat stress and how and why the shrimp expose themselves to a wide range of temperatures and then onto how they can detect the heat with their eyes. The penultimate  section will look into the pressure that the shrimp are exposed and the adaptations that the shrimp has obtained to survive such pressure. Finally, a conclusion section will summarise the main points discussed in this blog.

Next – Hydrothermal vents

You will notice some words are underlined, click them, they will take you on a journey of discovery. Also, if you want to read up more for yourself then click the citations or go to the References  page in the left hand menu.

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