Resembling giant lipsticks, giant tubeworms (Riftia pachyptila) live over a mile deep on the Pacific Ocean floor near hydrothermal vents. They may grow to about 3 meters (8 ft) tall. The worms' white tube home is made of a tough, natural material called chitin (pronounced "kite-in").
Tubeworms have no mouth, eyes, or stomach ("gut"). Their survival depends on a symbiotic relationship with billions of bacteria that live inside them. These bacteria convert the chemicals spewing out of the vents into worm food. This chemical-based food-making process is known as chemosynthesis.
The bright-red plume is the tubeworm's breathing apparatus. The blood in it contains special forms of hemoglobin that have a super-high affinity for the oxygen in the seawater. Masses of tubeworms, with their showy plumes, inspired scientists to name one vent field "The Rose Garden" in 1979.
However, during an expedition that began in May 2002, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and NOAA's Ocean Exploration Program discovered that "The Rose Garden" had been paved over by erupting lava. However, they did find the genesis of a new site nearby, populated with tiny tubeworms and other life. They aptly named the site "Rosebud."
When tubeworm larvae settle down at new vent sites, they grow rapidly and reproduce because when a vent shuts down, these animals cannot survive. As the flow of vent fluids ceases, the organisms that depend on the vents chill and starve. While tubeworms and other sessile organisms that are "rooted" to the seafloor die, it's possible that fish and crabs may move on to other vent sites.