Abstract

High-temperature chimneys on the Juan de Fuca Ridge are the preferred habitat of the "sulfide worm" (Paralvinella n. sp.). An investigation of interactions between the biology of the sulfide worm and chimney mineralization has led to a hypothesis linking formation of marcasite-pyrite crusts on chimney surfaces to colonization and tube-building by the worms. Marcasite precipitation beneath worm tubes and worm migration to newly formed areas of chimney together create a moving front of biomineralization that keeps pace with chimney growth. Sulfide oxidation by this organism can potentially produce enough S to form the FeS2 crusts. The marcasite-pyrite crusts act as a sealing layer within the outer chimney wall, reducing inflow of cold seawater or outflow of hydrothermal fluid. This may enhance temperature increases within the chimney conduit and hasten replacement of the early anhydrite matrix in the chimney wall by higher temperature sulfides.

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