National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1998

The quantum event of oceanic crustal accretion: Impacts of diking at mid-ocean ridges

Delaney, J.R., D.S. Kelley, M.D. Lilley, D.A. Butterfield, J.A. Baross, W.S.D. Wilcock, R.W. Embley, and M. Summit

Science, 281(5374), 222–230, doi: 10.1126/science.281.5374.222 (1998)

Seafloor diking-eruptive events represent the irreducible, quantum events of upper oceanic crustal accretion. They record events by which a large portion of the oceanic crust has formed through geological history. Since 1993, the U.S. Navy's real-time Sound Surveillance System has allowed location of ongoing acoustic signatures of dike emplacement and basalt eruptions at ridge crests in the northeast Pacific. These diking-eruptive events trigger a sequence of related, rapidly evolving physical, chemical, and biological processes. Magmatic volatiles released during these events may provide nutrients for communities of subseafloor microorganisms, some of which thrive in high-temperature anaerobic environments. Many of the organisms identified from these systems are Archaea. If microorganisms can thrive in the water-saturated pores and cracks within deep, volcanically active portions of our planet, other hydrothermally active planets may harbor similar life forms.

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