Life is both stranger and hardier than we know. Until quite recently,
scientists thought the realm of deep ocean, far from the Sun's sustaining
rays, was a cold, dark wasteland. Then, in 1977, researchers investigating
hydrothermal vents hot springs on the ocean floor discovered communities thriving in total darkness. Specialized bacteria in these communities turn chemicals seeping from the vents into food much like plants on land make energy from sunlight. These bacteria are the base of the food chain for life at the vents.