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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Pompeii Worm Alvinella pomejana

This extraordinary worm lives in thin tubes massed together on the sides of chimneys of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The tubes are close to the chimneys’ openings, where water from deep inside Earth pours out at temperatures of up to 660°F (350°C). The temperature within the worm tubes reaches 160°F (70°C). At its head end, the Pompeii Worm has a group of large gills and a mouth surrounded by tentacles. Each of the worm’s body segments has appendages on the side called parapodia. The posterior parapodia have many hairlike outgrowths that carry a mass of chemosynthetic bacteria. The bacteria manufacture food that the worm absorbs, and the worm also eats some of the bacteria.

Pompeii Worm habitat mapzoom image
  • Class Polychaeta
  • Length Up to 4 in (10 cm)
  • Depth 6,500–10,000 ft (2,000–3,000 m)
  • Habitat Hydrothermal vent chimneys
  • Distribution Eastern Pacific