Because of crushing pressure, low temperature, and stygian darkness, the floor of the deep sea is one of the most hostile habitats on Earth. Until recently it was widely believed that the base of the food chain for all deep-sea communities was plant life in the ocean's sunlit upper layer. With the discovery of hydrothermal vent and cold-seep communities, which are based on chemical rather than solar energy, those beliefs were overturned. New studies focused on the animals that inhabit cold seep regions have begun to throw light on the geological basis of chemosynthetic communities. The initial results suggest a strong relationship between geologically determined fluid flux, and the diversity and abundance of animals at the seeps.