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For most living things, scalding water is deadly. But it turns out there are some deep sea shrimp that do like a good boil.

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Go to to check out their course on Mathematical Fundamentals. [♪ INTRO]. A good shrimp boil is pretty much a winning meal for everyone...except the shrimp.

For most shrimp, scalding water is deadly. And I just said most, cause there are some shrimp that do like a good boil. In fact, there is a whole population of them that lives around hot vents at the bottom of the sea.

And these deep-sea shrimp don’t just thrive in spite of the heat… they thrive because of it. These unusual creatures are known as Alvinocaris. And they hang out near hydrothermal vents, which are volcanic fissures at the bottom of the sea.

At these spots, seawater sinks into the fissures, gets heated up by magma, and spews back out at scalding temperatures. Like, up to 400 degrees Celsius in some cases. That’s a death sentence for a lot of the animals that venture too close.

But not for Alvinocaris shrimp. They do just fine. In fact… certain species of Alvinocaris do more than fine.

As they endure the heat, they feed on a stream of hot meals made of unlucky creatures that wandered too close to the vents. But somehow, they do not get boiled themselves. And there are a couple of reasons for that.

For one, they mostly avoid the jets of hot fluid. That’s basically rule number one of coexisting with a hydrothermal vent:. Don’t get right on top.

But the water around the vents can go from warm to hot pretty quickly, and Alvinocaris shrimp have special adaptations that let them live in this hostile environment. Scientists figured this out by examining two populations of a particular species of Alvinocaris in a 2018 study. Both groups were from the same species, but one population lived near hydrothermal vents while the other lived in colder waters.

By analyzing their genetic makeup, the researchers realized that the two populations produce different numbers of heat shock proteins. Heat shock proteins are proteins that all plants and animals make. One of their main jobs is to protect cells from heat.

And they do that by helping cells’ proteins keep their shape as they heat up. That’s a big deal because proteins do most of the important work in cells, but they are only functional when they are folded into a distinct three-dimensional structure. And too much heat can break the bonds that hold that protein’s shape.

That’s where the heat shock proteins come in:. They bind to proteins that are coming apart and fold them back together. Like all plants and animals, the shrimp in the study had genes that contained instructions for assembling heat shock proteins.

But in the shrimp that lived near the vents, those genes were expressed differently, meaning the same information in their genes was being used in a different way. Specifically, it was being used to build more heat shock proteins. What’s impressive is that these shrimp don’t have a secret gene that gives them a superpower to endure heat.

They just use ordinary tactics to survive extraordinary conditions, thanks to the way their genes are expressed. They may also get a leg up thanks to how they use energy. In a different group of hot-water shrimp, researchers found that as the shrimp devote more resources to making heat shock proteins, they devote fewer resources to unrelated functions, like sugar metabolism or immune function.

Thanks to these tactics, certain Alvinocaris shrimp can thrive in one of the most unlivable places on Earth. And in this shrimp boil, the tables are turned:. The shrimp are the ones having a hot seafood meal.

This episode of SciShow was supported by Brilliant, an online learning platform with courses in science, math, engineering, and computer science. Recently, Brilliant has taken the interactivity of some of their courses to the next level. Like their course on Mathematical Fundamentals.

In this course, visualizations and storytelling guide you as you learn about the foundational ideas like number theory and logic that come up in nearly every subject across STEM. So if you’d like to start learning with them, you can get started at, where you can also get 20% off an annual premium subscription to Brilliant. [♪ OUTRO].