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Trophosome
This organ of dark green-brown spongy tissue is where the real action takes place. Here, the microbes that live symbiotically in the worm make their home in special cells. (Quite a few microbes live here: an estimated 285 billion bacteria per ounce of tissue.) In exchange for a safe, cozy place to live, they give the worm all the food it needs. They do this by absorbing those three ingredients pumped down from the plume—oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide—and then controlling their reaction. In essence, the microbes use the chemical energy released from the oxidation of sulfide into sulfate to fix carbon dioxide into the organic carbon that nourishes both the microbes and the worm. It's a good deal for both creatures—until, that is, the tubeworm decides to digest a few microbes for variety. I mean, could you eat the same meal every day of your life?

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Living at Extremes | Inside a Tubeworm | Deep-Sea Bestiary



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