Thermophilic microbial inhabitants of active seafloor and continental hot springs populate the deepest branches of the universal phylogenetic tree, making hydrothermal ecosystems the most ancient continuously inhabited ecosystems on Earth. Geochemical consequences of hot water-rock interactions render these environments habitable and supply a diverse array of energy sources. Clues to the strategies for how life thrives in these dynamic ecosystems are beginning to be elucidated through a confluence of biogeochemistry, microbiology, ecology, molecular biology, and genomics. These efforts have the potential to reveal how ecosystems originate, the extent of the subsurface biosphere, and the driving forces of evolution.
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