Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2012

Abstract

Several varieties of seafloor hydrothermal vents with widely varying fluid compositions and temperatures and vent communities occur in different tectonic settings. The discovery of the Lost City hydrothermal field in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has stimulated interest in the role of serpentinization of peridotite in generating H2- and CH4-rich fluids and associated carbonate chimneys, as well as in the biological communities supported in highly reduced, alkaline environments. Abundant vesicomyid clam communities associated with a serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal vent system in the southern Mariana forearc were discovered during a DSV Shinkai 6500 dive in September 2010. We named this system the “Shinkai Seep Field (SSF).” The SSF appears to be a serpentinite-hosted ecosystem within a forearc (convergent margin) setting that is supported by fault-controlled fluid pathways connected to the decollement of the subducting slab. The discovery of the SSF supports the prediction that serpentinite-hosted vents may be widespread on the ocean floor. The discovery further indicates that these serpentinite-hosted low-temperature fluid vents can sustain high-biomass communities and has implications for the chemical budget of the oceans and the distribution of abyssal chemosynthetic life.

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