Serpentinization, Carbon, and Deep Life

  title={Serpentinization, Carbon, and Deep Life},
  author={Matthew O. Schrenk and William J. Brazelton and Susan Q. Lang},
  journal={Reviews in Mineralogy \& Geochemistry},
The aqueous alteration of ultramafic rocks through serpentinization liberates mantle carbon and reducing power. Serpentinization occurs in numerous settings on present day Earth, including subduction zones, mid-ocean ridges, and ophiolites and has extended far into Earth’s history, potentially contributing to the origins and early evolution of life. Serpentinization can provide the energy and raw materials to support chemosynthetic microbial communities that may penetrate deep into Earth’s… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

Redox status of Fe in serpentinites of the Coast Range and Zambales Ophiolite

Although, the reduced status of the Earth’s upper mantle is a possible controller of the deep, rock-hosted biosphere, knowledge of the redox state of the mantle is incomplete. Peridotites (mantle

Serpentinization-Influenced Groundwater Harbors Extremely Low Diversity Microbial Communities Adapted to High pH

This study describes the first comprehensive interdisciplinary analysis of microbial communities in hyperalkaline groundwater directly accessed by boreholes into serpentinite rocks, providing a basis for further biogeochemical studies of key processes in serpentinite subsurface environments.

A dynamic microbial sulfur cycle in a serpentinizing continental ophiolite.

Investigation of hyperalkaline, sulfur-rich, brackish groundwater in a serpentinizing continental ophiolite illustrates that key sulfur-cycling taxa, including Dethiobacter, Desulfitispora, and 'Desulforudis', persist throughout this extreme environment and highlights the importance of the complete inorganic sulfur cycle in serpentinized fluids.

Physiological adaptations to serpentinization in the Samail Ophiolite, Oman

Geochemical measurements on waters from a serpentinizing environment and planktonic microbial cells subjected to metagenomic and physiological analyses suggest that microorganisms inhabiting serpentinized waters exhibit a unique suite of physiological adaptations that allow for their persistence under these polyextremophilic conditions.

Thermodynamic constraints on the geochemistry of low-temperature, continental, serpentinization-generated fluids

The hydrous alteration of ultramafic rocks, known as serpentinization, generates fluids that can fuel microbial communities and enable the synthesis of simple organic compounds. Serpentinization

Habitability of ultrabasic, serpentinite-associated waters from coast range and Philippines ophiolites

The deep biosphere in cold, dark sub-seafloor ultramafic rocks (i.e., those rocks rich in Fe and Mg) is stressed by exceedingly high pH of through-going solutions, transient, if any, inorganic carbon

Microbial Residents of the Atlantis Massif’s Shallow Serpentinite Subsurface

The first census of microbial diversity in samples of the drill cores, as measured by environmental 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing is reported, providing the first window into the diversity of microbial communities inhabiting subseafloor serpentinites of the Atlantis Massif.

Active microbial sulfate reduction in fluids of serpentinizing peridotites of the continental subsurface

Serpentinization of peridotites in Earth’s mantle is associated with the generation of hydrogen and low molecular weight organics that could support subsurface life. Studies of microbial metabolisms



H2-rich fluids from serpentinization: geochemical and biotic implications.

The catalytic properties of FeNi3 allow complex organic compounds to form within serpentinite and, when mixed with atmospherically produced complex organic matter and waters that circulated through basalts, constitutes an attractive prebiotic substrate.

Serpentinite and the dawn of life

Submarine hydrothermal vents above serpentinite produce chemical potential gradients of aqueous and ionic hydrogen, thus providing a very attractive venue for the origin of life. This environment was

Serpentinization of Oceanic Peridotites: Implications for Geochemical Cycles and Biological Activity

Ultramafic rocks are a major component of the oceanic lithosphere and are commonly exposed near and along slow- and ultra-spreading ridges and in other tectonically active environments. The

Serpentinite mud volcanism: observations, processes, and implications.

  • P. Fryer
  • Geology
    Annual review of marine science
  • 2012
If eruptive episodes are related to seismicity, seafloor observatories at these seamounts hold the potential to capture a subduction event and trace the effects of eruption on the biological communities that the slab fluids support, such as extremophile Archaea.

Geochemical constraints on sources of metabolic energy for chemolithoautotrophy in ultramafic-hosted deep-sea hydrothermal systems.

The results indicate that ultramafic-hosted systems are capable of supplying about twice as much chemical energy as analogous deep-sea hydrothermal systems hosted in basaltic rocks.

Desulfotomaculum and Methanobacterium spp. Dominate a 4- to 5-Kilometer-Deep Fault

ABSTRACT Alkaline, sulfidic, 54 to 60°C, 4 to 53 million-year-old meteoric water emanating from a borehole intersecting quartzite-hosted fractures >3.3 km beneath the surface supported a microbial

A serpentinite-hosted ecosystem in the Southern Mariana Forearc

The SSF appears to be a serpentinite-hosted ecosystem within a forearc (convergent margin) setting that is supported by fault-controlled fluid pathways connected to the decollement of the subducting slab, and supports the prediction that serpentinization of peridotite vents may be widespread on the ocean floor.