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The submarine hydrothermal activity on and near the Gala??pagos Rift has been explored with the aid of the deep submersible Alvin. Analyses of water samples from hydrothermal vents reveal that hydrothermal activity provides significant or dominant sources and sinks for several components of seawater; studies of conductive and convective heat transfer suggest that two-thirds of the heat lost from new oceanic lithosphere at the Gala??pagos Rift in the first million years may be vented from thermal springs, predominantly along the axial ridge within the rift valley. The vent areas are populated by animal communities. They appear to utilize chemosynthesis by sulfur-oxidizing bacteria to derive their entire energy supply from reactions between the seawater and the rocks at high temperatures, rather than photosynthesis. Copyright ?? 1979 AAAS.