Similar to humans, the bacteria and tiny plants living in the ocean need iron for energy and growth. But their situation is quite different from ours--for one, they can't turn to natural iron sources like leafy greens or red meat for a pick-me-up.
So, from where does their iron come?
New research results published in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience point to a source on the seafloor: minute particles of pyrite, or fool's gold, from hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.
Scientists already knew the vents' cloudy plumes, which spew forth from the earth's interior, include pyrite particles, but thought they were solids that settled back on the ocean bottom.
Now, scientists at the University of Delaware and other institutions have shown the vents emit a significant amount of microscopic pyrite particles that have a diameter 1,000 times smaller than that of a human hair.
Because the nanoparticles are so small, they are dispersed into the ocean rather than falling to the sea floor.
Barbara Ransom, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research, called the discovery "very exciting."
"These particles have long residence times in the ocean and can travel long distances from their sources, forming a potentially important food source for life in the deep sea," she said.
The project also received support from another NSF program, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCOR.
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, has a metallic luster and brass-yellow color that led to its nickname: fool's gold. In fact, pyrite is sometimes found in association with small quantities of gold.
Scientist George Luther of the University of Delaware explained the importance of the lengthy amount of time pyrite exists suspended in its current form in the sea, also known as its residence time.Pyrite, which consists of iron and sulfur as iron disulfide, does not rapidly react with oxygen in seawater to form oxidized iron, or "rust," allowing it to stay intact and move throughout the ocean better than other forms of iron.
"It's an ongoing iron supplement for the ocean--much as multivitamins are for humans."
Growth of tiny plants known as phytoplankton can affect atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Much of the research was performed by scientist and lead author Mustafa Yucel of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in France, conducted while Yucel worked on a doctorate at the University of Delaware.
It involved scientific cruises to the South Pacific and East Pacific Rise using the manned deep-sea submersible Alvin and the remotely operated vehicle Jason, both operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Co-authors, in addition to Yucel and Luther, are Amy Gartman and Clara Chan, also of the University of Delaware.
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction