Amazing Kids! Magazine

Living in the Heat

By Celine Tien, Nonfiction Editor

 

With beautiful airy names like Morning Glory, Grand Prismatic, Emerald, Abyss, and Sapphire, you would never guess that these names describe Yellow Stone National Park’s superheated hot springs. What is a hot spring? Hot springs are the glistening product of Earth’s heated groundwater flowing from Earth’s crust. They appear all around the world, but Yellowstone itself encompasses around one-half of the world’s hydrothermal features (including hot springs)!

Often splashed with a myriad of colors, hot springs are both aseptically appealing and historically fascinating. At Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs, researchers have uncovered Native American artifacts dating back to prehistoric times! Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1804 have recorded sightings of the breath-taking hot springs as well. But despite their enticing appearance, hot springs can often be extremely dangerous. A hot spring can have temperatures ranging from 98˚F to 122˚F! Not only are these hot springs blazing hot they also contain enough acid to dissolve human fingernails. These high temperatures and acidic levels can potentially burn a human to death…and yet, these hot springs are not a barren lifeless place.

Thermus aquaticus is a famous example of a bacterium that thrives in hot places like the hot springs. But Thermus aquaticus aren’t the only ones. Microbes (a microscopic organism made of either a single cell or a cluster of cells) love the hot springs for its heat and hydrogen (which the microbes eat). An example of these microbes would be archaea, which love hot temperatures therefore are found in not only hot springs but in volcanoes as well. These microbes are often responsible for the beautiful bursts of colors within the hot springs when they produce pigments.

Now, knowing all this information about hot springs, you can visit any of Yellowstone’s host of hot springs and say, “I know who lives there!” But remember; never jump into hot springs without first asking about the temperature!