Hydrothermal vent

Black smoker in the Atlantic Ocean
White smokers at Champagne Vent, Eifuku, Japan

Hydrothermal vents are fissures on the seabed from which geothermally heated water discharges. They are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart at mid-ocean ridges, ocean basins, and hotspots.[1] The dispersal of hydrothermal fluids throughout the global ocean at active vent sites creates hydrothermal plumes. Hydrothermal deposits are rocks and mineral ore deposits formed by the action of hydrothermal vents.

Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both geologically active and has large amounts of water on its surface and within its crust. Under the sea, they may form features called black smokers or white smokers, which deliver a wide range of elements to the world's oceans, thus contributing to global marine biogeochemistry. Relative to the majority of the deep sea, the areas around hydrothermal vents are biologically more productive, often hosting complex communities fueled by the chemicals dissolved in the vent fluids. Chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea found around hydrothermal vents form the base of the food chain, supporting diverse organisms including giant tube worms, clams, limpets, and shrimp. Active hydrothermal vents are thought to exist on Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus,[2][3] and it is speculated that ancient hydrothermal vents once existed on Mars.[1][4]

Hydrothermal vents have been hypothesized to have been a significant factor to starting abiogenesis and the survival of primitive life. The conditions of these vents have been shown to support the synthesis of molecules important to life. Some evidence suggests that certain vents such as alkaline hydrothermal vents or those containing supercritical CO2 are more conducive to the formation of these organic molecules. However, the origin of life is a widely debated topic, and there are many conflicting viewpoints.

  1. ^ a b Colín-García, María (2016). "Hydrothermal vents and prebiotic chemistry: a review". Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana. 68 (3): 599–620. doi:10.18268/BSGM2016v68n3a13.
  2. ^ Chang, Kenneth (13 April 2017). "Conditions for Life Detected on Saturn Moon Enceladus". New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Spacecraft Data Suggest Saturn Moon's Ocean May Harbor Hydrothermal Activity". NASA. 11 March 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  4. ^ Paine, M. (15 May 2001). "Mars Explorers to Benefit from Australian Research". Space.com. Archived from the original on 21 February 2006.

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