Hydrothermal Vent: Strange and Different One Found in Caribbean
A hydrothermal vent system in the Caribbean has a very different make-up than any other vent analyzed to date. This deep sea hydrothermal system, called the Von Damm Vent Field (VDVF), is located south of the Cayman Islands. A team of scientists from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanography Centre recently studied samples taken from the vent field when it was first discovered in 2010.
The findings, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, shows an unusual chemical structure of the vent. Typically, hydrothermal vents consist of sulphide minerals, but the VDVF is formed mostly of talc, a hydrated magnesium silicate mineral.
"This vent site is home to a community of fauna similar to those found at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean, but the minerals and chemistry at the Von Damm site are very different to any other known vents," Matthew Hodgkinson, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement.
Hydrothermal vent systems occur in deep ocean environments where tectonic plates move beneath. The magma below the moving plates heat up the salt water above. The hot water then prompts the nearby rock bed to seep metals into the ocean by emitting the hot water through vents, causing the seawater to become more acidic.
In addition to the strange mineral make-up of the VDVF, the scientists found that the vents discharge more energy into the ocean than would be expected of a system located away from an immense magma reserve; the system is positioned on the incline of an underwater mountain. This means that the VDVF is adjacent to a spreading area rather than in between two separating tectonic plates-where the temperature would be higher.
"If more of these unusual sites exist they could be important contributors in the exchange of chemicals and heat between the Earth's interior and the oceans, and may be missing from current global assessments of hydrothermal impact on the oceans," Hodgkinson commented in the release.
Considering the uncommon placement of the VDVF, this analysis indicates that similar vent systems may exist elsewhere and have been undetected by scientists.
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