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Four-Hundred-and-Ninety-Million-Year Record of Bacteriogenic Iron Oxide Precipitation at Sea-Floor Hydrothermal Vents

By C.T.S. Little, S.E.J. Glynn and R.A. Mills


Fe oxide deposits are commonly found at hydrothermal vent sites at mid-ocean ridge and back-arc sea floor spreading centers, seamounts associated with these spreading centers, and intra-plate seamounts, and can cover extensive areas of the seafloor. These deposits can be attributed to several abiogenic processes and commonly contain micron-scale filamentous textures. Some filaments are cylindrical casts of Fe oxyhydroxides formed around bacterial cells and are thus unquestionably biogenic. The filaments have distinctive morphologies very like structures formed by neutrophilic Fe oxidizing bacteria. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Fe oxidizing bacteria have a significant role in the formation of Fe oxide deposits at marine hydrothermal vents. The presence of Fe oxide filaments in Fe oxides is thus of great potential as a biomarker for Fe oxidizing bacteria in modern and ancient marine hydrothermal vent deposits. The ancient analogues of modern deep-sea hydrothermal Fe oxide deposits are jaspers. A number of jaspers, ranging in age from the early Ordovician to late Eocene, contain abundant Fe oxide filamentous textures with a wide variety of morphologies. Some of these filaments are like structures formed by modern Fe oxidizing bacteria. Together with new data from the modern TAG site, we show that there is direct evidence for bacteriogenic Fe oxide precipitation at marine hydrothermal vent sites for at least the last 490 Ma of the Phanerozoic

Year: 2004
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