Special Reviews

The Quantum Event of Oceanic Crustal Accretion: Impacts of Diking at Mid-Ocean Ridges

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Science  10 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5374, pp. 222-230
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5374.222

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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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