A word or two about volcanoes

Hi everyone, and welcome to my first post in 2020! I hope you had nice holidays 🙂

For this post, I’ve decided to go in a slightly different direction, and write about something that is of a great interest to me and would one day want to do/visit. Also, some of you may have noticed, that despite spending most of my days in the lab, and doing my Master’s thesis in neuroscience, most of my blog posts are about travelling and speleology. If you’d like to read more about molecular biology, please let me know in the comments or on my social media profiles!

And now, on volcanoes!

As many of you, I also grew up watching many documentaries about many ecosystems. All of them were pretty fascinating to me, but volcanoes were the ones that occupied my mind the most. Interestingly, I didn’t first time I saw a footage of an active volcano was actually on the news – Mount Etna eruption, somewhere around 2001 or 2002. Until then, I had a vague idea about where volcanoes are found, and never knew some of them where in the country that’s neighboring mine. I sat in front of the TV completely mesmerized by the footage, and admiring people who were so close to an active volcano.

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Volcano is a rupture of Earth’s crust through which lava, ash, and gasses burst out. Volcanoes are found on the edges of tectonic plates; there are also underwater volcanoes. Most of flora & fauna on and around the volcanoes depends on the geographical area; mammals, rodents, birds, as well as many different species of plants. Recently, many underwater volcano dwellers have been discovered, such as bristle worm (Polychaete), crown jellyfish (order Coronatae), and sharks. Yes, sharks, such as Pacific sleeper sharks (Somniosus pacificus) – there is some amazing footage about sharks swimming about in underwater volcanoes. And there are also thermophiles.

As their name suggests, thermophiles are organisms that live in extreme high-temperature environments, up to around 120 °C. They are microorganisms such as bacteria and archaea. Some thermophiles thrive in other types of extreme as well, such as high acidity or high levels of sulfur. Bacterial thermophiles are important in molecular biology as well – Thermus aquaticus is the source of Taq DNA polymerase that’s used in PCR (polymerase chain reaction), a method of amplifying DNA. There are many other possible means of using thermophiles in biotechnology and research is on the way.


Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Archaea are a single-cell organisms that have their own domain. That means they are neither Prokaryotes nor Eukaryotes, although they are closely related to the latter. They size (diameter) is measured μm, and they can be in various shapes (spheres, rods…). Their morphology indeed makes them similar to bacteria. Archaea are also important in the research of evolution.

So, why am I fascinated with volcanoes so much? Although molecular approaches to some organisms that live in and on volcanoes are interesting, my interest stems from field biologist in me. I feel that our planet has so many uninvestigated wonders, and volcanoes are one of them. One of the items on my bucket list is visiting a volcano, maybe even an active one. What about you, would you like to see it one day? Or perhaps already have? Let me know in the comments!

Literature & more information:

Foliage vs. Geology: Plants on volcanoes
These Sharks Thrive Inside an Underwater Volcano
6 Insane Animals That Live In Volcanos
How do volcanoes affect plants and animals?
Microbial Life in Extremely Hot Environments
Potential and utilization of thermophiles and thermostable enzymes in biorefining
Thermophiles – scientific articles

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