In the late 70's ecosystems were discovered which were relatively independent of the sun. From fissures in the deepest ocean, water of extremely high temperature (400° C) vents out, heated by the magma beneath the Earth's crust. On contact with the cold water dissolved minerals precipitate, forming chimneys that can reach great heights. In the vicinity of hydrothermal vents exists a dense animal community that is dependent on chemosynthetic bacteria. The bacteria use and convert sulphur compounds driven out by the hot water and are preyed upon by a variety of animals including small crustaceans (amphipods and copepods), which in turn are prey for snails, crabs, shrimp, worms, giant tube worms, fish and octopus.
Gaia hypothesis. English chemist James Lovelock (1919 - ) proposed the hypothesis that the Earth functions as an interactive system in which living things have an influence on their physical characteristics and vice versa. Gaia, also known as Gea, was the Greek goddess of the Earth and regarded as mother goddess. She was equivalent to the Roman goddess Terra.