Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Fool's Gold' is ocean life's fertilizer: Pyrite nanoparticles from hydrothermal vents are rich source of iron in deep sea

Date:
May 10, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
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?

Black smoker from the Mariner vent site in the Pacific Ocean's Eastern Lau Spreading Center.
Credit: University of Delaware

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 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.

"As pyrite travels from the vents to the ocean interior and toward the surface ocean, it oxidizes gradually to release iron, which becomes available in areas where iron is depleted so that organisms can assimilate it, then grow," Luther said.

"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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mustafa Yücel, Amy Gartman, Clara S. Chan, George W. Luther. Hydrothermal vents as a kinetically stable source of iron-sulphide-bearing nanoparticles to the ocean. Nature Geoscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1148

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "'Fool's Gold' is ocean life's fertilizer: Pyrite nanoparticles from hydrothermal vents are rich source of iron in deep sea." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509151304.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, May 10). 'Fool's Gold' is ocean life's fertilizer: Pyrite nanoparticles from hydrothermal vents are rich source of iron in deep sea. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509151304.htm
National Science Foundation. "'Fool's Gold' is ocean life's fertilizer: Pyrite nanoparticles from hydrothermal vents are rich source of iron in deep sea." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509151304.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) — A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins