Hottie Alert! by Christina Kellogg

Move over Angelina Jolie-according to University of Delaware marine biologists, the Pompeii worm is “Earth’s Hottest Animal.” And how could it not be…an invertebrate with a pimp-tastic bacteria fur coat?! Well that, and it can survive even when its butt is bathed in hydrothermal vent fluids as hot as 176˚C.

“While some bacteria thrive at higher temperatures, the Pompeii worm ranks as the most heat-tolerant among complex life forms. The former record holder was the Sahara Desert ant, at 131°F. Discovered in the early 1980s by French scientists, the Pompeii worm (Alvinella pompejana) is about 4 inches long with tentacle-like, scarlet gills on its head. A gray “fleece” of bacteria covers the worm’s back. The worm gets its name from the Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The Alvinella in the worm’s scientific name stems from the submersible Alvin.
The Pompeii worm and its bacteria are of interest to industry, as well as the scientific community, because they may yield a variety of products and applications, from new pharmaceuticals to enzymes capable in operating in hot, corrosive, high-pressure environments. Such enzymes can help dislodge oil inside wells, convert cornstarch to sugar, process food and drugs, and support a number of other industrial processes by speeding up chemical reactions.”

Visit the University of Delaware’s web site for a 3-D rotating model of the Pompeii worm, video clips of the worms at hydrothermal vents, and more information about their research on the bacteria that make this worm special:

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Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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