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Worms bask in extreme temperatures


Temperature is one of the most important environmental factors that governs a species' distribution. Some highly specialized prokaryotes can grow at temperatures above 113 °C (ref. 1), but eukaryotes appear less versatile2 and do not normally occur above 55 °C. Here we show that a colony-dwelling polychaete worm, inhabiting deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimneys, regularly experiences temperatures above 80 °C and a thermal gradient of 60 °C or more over its body length.

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Figure 1: Alvinella pompejana, the Pompeii worm, found colonizing the sides of active deep-sea hydrothermal vents (actual length 6 cm).
Figure 2: Temperature records of Pompeii worm habitat.


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Cary, S., Shank, T. & Stein, J. Worms bask in extreme temperatures. Nature 391, 545–546 (1998).

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