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Biology Articles » Geobiology » Microbial and hydrothermal aspects of ferric oxyhydroxides and ferrosic hydroxides: the example of Franklin Seamount, Western Woodlark Basin, Papua New Guinea

Abstract
- Microbial and hydrothermal aspects of ferric oxyhydroxides and ferrosic hydroxides: the example of Franklin Seamount, Western Woodlark Basin, Papua New Guinea

Microbial and hydrothermal aspects of ferric oxyhydroxides and ferrosic hydroxides: the example of Franklin Seamount, Western Woodlark Basin, Papua New Guinea

TD Boyd1,2 and SD Scott2

1Scotiabank Marine Geology Research Laboratory, Department of Geology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3B1

2Millennium Minerals Corp., 350 Cleveland Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4S 2W9

Geochemical Transactions 2001, 2:45doi:10.1186/1467-4866-2-45 [Open Access]

 

Deposits of Fe-Si-Mn oxyhydroxides are commonly found on the seafloor on seamounts and mid-ocean spreading centers. At Franklin Seamount located near the western extremity of Woodlark Basin, Papua New Guinea, Fe-Si-Mn oxyhydroxides are being precipitated as chimneys and mounds upon a substrate of mafic lava. Previous studies have shown that the vent fluids have a low temperature (20–30°C) and are characterized by a total dissolved iron concentration of 0.038 mM kg-1, neutral pH (6.26) and no measurable H2S. The chimneys have a yellowish appearance with mottled red–orange patches when observed in situ from a submersible, but collected samples become redder within a few hours of being removed from the sea. The amorphous iron oxyhydroxides, obtained from active and inactive vents, commonly possess filamentous textures similar in appearance to sheaths and stalks excreted by the iron-oxidizing bacteria Leptothrix and Gallionella; however, formless agglomerates are also common. Textural relationships between apparent bacterial and non-bacterial iron suggest that the filaments are coeval with and/or growing outwards from the agglomerates. The amorphous iron oxyhydroxides are suggested to precipitate hydrothermally as ferrosic hydroxide, a mixed-valence (Fe2+-Fe3+) green–yellow iron hydroxide compound. Consideration of the thermodynamics and kinetics of iron in the vent fluid, suggest that the precipitation is largely pH controlled and that large amounts of amorphous iron oxyhydroxides are capable of being precipitated by a combination of abiotic hydrothermal processes. Some biologically induced precipitation of primary ferric oxyhydroxides (two-XRD-line ferrihydrite) may have occurred directly from the fluid, but most of the filamentous iron micro-textures in the samples appear to have a diagenetic origin. They may have formed as a result of the interaction between the iron-oxidizing bacteria and the initially precipitated ferrosic hydroxide that provided a source of ferrous iron needed for their growth. The processes described at Franklin Seamount provide insight into the formation of other seafloor oxyhydroxide deposits and ancient oxide-facies iron formation.

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