An off-axis hydrothermal vent field near the mid-atlantic ridge at 30° n

Deborah S. Kelley, Jeffrey A. Karson, Donna K. Blackman, Gretchen L. Früh-Green, David A. Butterfield, Marvin D. Lilley, Eric J. Olson, Matthew O. Schrenk, Kevin K. Roe, Geoff T. Lebon, Pete Rivizzigno

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762 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evidence is growing that hydrothermal venting occurs not only along mid-ocean ridges but also on old regions of the oceanic crust away from spreading centres. Here we report the discovery of an extensive hydrothermal field at 30° N near the eastern intersection of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Atlantis fracture zone. The vent field - named 'Lost City' - is distinctly different from all other known sea-floor hydrothermal fields in that it is located on 1.5-Myr-old crust, nearly 15 km from the spreading axis, and may be driven by the heat of exothermic serpentinization reactions between sea water and mantle rocks. It is located on a dome-like massif and is dominated by steep-sided carbonate chimneys, rather than the sulphide structures typical of 'black smoker' hydrothermal fields. We found that vent fluids are relatively cool (40-75°C) and alkaline (pH 9.0-9.8), supporting dense microbial communities that include anaerobic thermophiles. Because the geological characteristics of the Atlantis massif are similar to numerous areas of old crust along the Mid-Atlantic, Indian and Arctic ridges, these results indicate that a much larger portion of the oceanic crust may support hydrothermal activity and microbial life than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-149
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume412
Issue number6843
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 12 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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    Kelley, D. S., Karson, J. A., Blackman, D. K., Früh-Green, G. L., Butterfield, D. A., Lilley, M. D., Olson, E. J., Schrenk, M. O., Roe, K. K., Lebon, G. T., & Rivizzigno, P. (2001). An off-axis hydrothermal vent field near the mid-atlantic ridge at 30° n. Nature, 412(6843), 145-149. https://doi.org/10.1038/35084000