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A hydrothermal vent is a fissure on the seabed from which geothermally heated water discharges. They are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart at mid-ocean ridges, ocean basins, and hotspots. Hydrothermal deposits are rocks and mineral ore deposits formed by the action of hydrothermal vents.
Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both geologically active and has large amounts of water on its surface and within its crust. Under the sea, they may form features called black smokers or white smokers. Relative to the majority of the deep sea, the areas around hydrothermal vents are biologically more productive, often hosting complex communities fueled by the chemicals dissolved in the vent fluids. Chemosynthetic bacteria and Archaea form the base of the food chain, supporting diverse organisms, including giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp. Active hydrothermal vents are thought to exist on Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus, and it is speculated that ancient hydrothermal vents once existed on Mars.