Hot, hot, not
"Our study concludes that 50 degrees Celsius cannot be tolerated permanently by Alvinella," Shillito told LiveScience in an email interview.
"This doesn't mean it cannot 'adventure out' in higher temperatures, maybe 60 degrees Celsius, but then it would not be permanent. A bit like you and I, who can stick our finger under a tap with very hot water, but only for a few seconds. This same water would certainly kill us if we had a bath," Shillito said.
The temperature results match up with experiments on related hydrothermal worm species taken from other deep-sea vents, said Ray Lee, a marine biologist at Washington State University who was not involved in the study. However, Lee said there could be other, as yet unknown factors that help Pompeii worms survive hotter temperatures in their deep-sea home. The handling and chemistry changes during the trip to the surface could also affect how the worms respond to the tests, he said.
"It's like you're taking them from outer space and putting them on a shipboard lab," Lee said. "The major advance is that they have eliminated the decompression factor, and that's one of the hardest things to do."