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!
Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen
Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research