Diverse styles of submarine venting on the ultraslow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise.
Thirty years after the first discovery of high-temperature submarine venting, the vast majority of the global mid-ocean ridge remains unexplored for hydrothermal activity. Of particular interest are the world's ultraslow spreading ridges that were the last to be demonstrated to host high-temperature venting but may host systems particularly relevant to prebiotic chemistry and the origins of life. Here we report evidence for previously unknown, diverse, and very deep hydrothermal vents along the approximately 110 km long, ultraslow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise (MCR). Our data indicate that the MCR hosts at least three discrete hydrothermal sites, each representing a different type of water-rock interaction, including both mafic and ultramafic systems and, at approximately 5,000 m, the deepest known hydrothermal vent. Although submarine hydrothermal circulation, in which seawater percolates through and reacts with host lithologies, occurs on all mid-ocean ridges, the diversity of vent types identified here and their relative geographic isolation make the MCR unique in the oceans. These new sites offer prospects for an expanded range of vent-fluid compositions, varieties of abiotic organic chemical synthesis and extremophile microorganisms, and unparalleled faunal biodiversity--all in close proximity.
German, CR; Bowen, A; Coleman, ML; Honig, DL; Huber, JA; Jakuba, MV; Kinsey, JC; Kurz, MD; Leroy, S; McDermott, JM; de Lépinay, BM; Nakamura, K; Seewald, JS; Smith, JL; Sylva, SP; Van Dover, CL; Whitcomb, LL; Yoerger, DR
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