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A new study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) points to the deep ocean as a major source of dissolved iron in the central Pacific Ocean.
Scientists have discovered a vast plume of iron and other micronutrients more than 1,000 km wide billowing from hydrothermal vents in the South Atlantic Ocean. The finding, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, calls past estimates of iron abundances into question, and may challenge researchers’ assumptions about iron sources in the world’s seas.
The cycling of iron throughout the oceans has been an area of intense research for the last two decades. Oceanographers have spent a lot of time studying what has been affectionately labeled the Geritol effect ever since discovering that the lack of iron is a reason why phytoplankton grow lackadaisically in some of the most nutrient-rich surface waters. Just like humans, sometimes the ocean needs a dose of iron to function more effectively.
Hydrocarbonsmolecules critical to lifeare routinely generated by the simple interaction of seawater with the rocks under the Lost City hydrothermal vent field in the Atlantic Ocean. The production of such building blocks of life makes Lost City-like vents strong contenders as places where life might have originated on Earth, according to research led by the University of Washington and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Scientists have long known that microorganisms can use one of two different methods to convert carbon dioxide into a form that living things can use for energy. What they didn’t know until recently is that at least one form of bacteria can switch between these two “carbon fixation” pathways or use them both at the same timea fundamental discovery for scientists who believe such bacteria played a role in the evolution of life on Earth.
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