Investigating Microbial Strategy (biosignatures) in Modern Deep-sea Venting Systems

The deep-sea hydrothermal vents on the seafloor are modern analogous of ancient volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits, as well as extreme environments on Earth where life is probably originated. However, the role of microbial activities in metal accumulation and sulfide precipitation in the system is poorly understood. Therefore, this project aims to study the microbe-metal interactions in modern deep-sea hydrothermal chimneys to provide a better understanding of ancient similar ore deposits. A good appreciation of microbial accumulation of metals in modern vents and the features of key minerals (i.e. sulphides) from biotic and abiotic process not only can provide valuable biosignatures which can aid the early-life exploration, but also bear significant implications for mineral exploration.

Principal investigator

Siyu Hu
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Partner Institution: CSIRO| Project Code: NA

The Challenge

1) The samples are extremely precious and difficult to obtain without a large amount of inputs of money and labours.

2) Sulfides precipitated from both microbial and hydrothermal processes are difficult to be distinguished and are fine-grained to be well characterised.

The Solution

1) To build up strong collaborations with other organizations elsewhere in the world to study the samples together.

2) Apply cutting-edge analytical tools to study the samples in-situ without destruction at the initial step which provides significant guidance to the following characterisation steps

The Outcome

The samples are characterised via micro-CT and the data was processed with Avizo on the Visualisation Workstations at Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. The 3D visualisation of samples provides valuable insights into the sulfide textures which probably result from microbial activities. A manuscript is in preparation.

List of Publications

A manuscript is being prepared.

Figure 1. The image shows the 3D visulisation of microbial filaments from the modern deep-sea hydrothermal vents.