Abstract

The ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge is a major tectonic province, representing one of the important end-member mid-ocean-ridge types for its very slow and oblique spreading, and providing the only known route for migration of chemosynthetic deep-sea vent fauna between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We report the investigation of the first active high-temperature hydrothermal field found on any ultraslow mid-ocean ridge worldwide. Located on Southwest Indian Ridge at 37°47′S, 49°39′E, it consists of three zones extending ∼1000 m laterally, and it is one of four recently discovered active and inactive vent sites within a 250-km-long magmatically robust section. Our results provide the first direct evidence for potentially widespread distribution of hydrothermal activity along ultraslow-spreading ridges—at least along magmatically robust segments. This implies that the segment sections with excess heat from enhanced magmatism and suitable crustal permeability along slow and ultraslow ridges might be the most promising areas for searching for hydrothermal activities. It is surprising that the special vent fauna appear to indicate some complex affinity to those on the Central Indian Ridge, southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and the southwest Pacific Ocean.

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