Submarine hydrothermal fossils confirmed



Researchers from Princeton University (D. Crerrar et al, Econ. Geol., May 1982) have documented, in considerable detail, evidence for the formation of some of the 800 or more manganiferous chert deposits occurring in the central belt of the Fransiscan formation in northwestern California. They confirm the surprisingly old conclusion o f Tiaferro and Hudson (Cal. Div. Mines Bull., 125, 217–276, 1943) that the Fransiscan chert deposits probably represent the fossil remains of submarine hydrothermal vents.

The deposits resemble recently discovered hydrothermal mounds near the Galapagos rift, the Gulf of Aden, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. As the Princeton investigators point out, there are important implications of the existence of deep hydrothermal circulation systems at oceanic spreading centers throughout geologic time. They note that the calculated annual flow of hydrothermal fluids in such processes is about 1017 g, which implies that the entire volume of the oceans could circulate completely every 10 million years. With such circulation, the hydrothermal processes along midocean ridges could control the composition of seawater and strongly influence the geochemical flux of elements in the marine environment.