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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Journal of Sedimentary Research (SEPM)


Journal of Sedimentary Research, Section A: Sedimentary Petrology and Processes
Vol. 67 (1997)No. 1. (January), Pages 47-53

Hydrothermal Vent Bacterial Community in Ordovician Ophicalcite, Southern Quebec Appalachians

Denis Lavoie


The oldest known case of chemosynthesis is suggested for Lower Ordovician ophicalcites in the southern Quebec Appalachians (Canada). These ophicalcites are the end product of tectonosedimentary and hydrothermal alteration of ophiolites on the deep sea floor. Peloidal mats (mean d18O -4.6^pmil; mean d13C -0.4^pmil) coat micritic sediments (mean d18O -4.8^pmil; mean d13C +0.1^pmil) and ophiolite clasts associated with hydrothermal, low-temperature (» 80°C) vent fracture-filling calcite cements (mean d18O -13.5^pmil; mean d13C -0.2^pmil). The mats are interpreted to be the fossil analogues of bacterial white slime around modern vents. The mats are locally overlain by botryoidal cements (mean d18O -3.4^pmil; mean d13C +0.9^pmil) of former high-magnesium calcite mineralogy. Precipitation of this cement was likely mediated by bacteria. Stable-isotope ratios of peloidal mats and botryoidal cements indicate that the exhalatives were free of hydrocarbons and H2S.

Modern and ancient hydrothermal vents on ophiolite substrates commonly are typified by high-temperature H2S-rich fluids, sulfide mineralization, and a diverse chemosynthetic fauna. Carbonatized ophiolite successions, however, are significantly different in their vent setting, as indicated by this Ordovician occurrence and a previously described Cretaceous example. The Ordovician ophicalcite is devoid of mineralization and of macro-biological activity. The lack of corrosion of carbonates in the Ordovician ophicalcite suggests minimal rates of H2S venting, and pseudomorphs of sulfates, now calcite, are found in the sediment surrounding the vents. These observations suggest that the venting system of this Ordovician case was somewhat similar to H2S-poor w ite smokers. In the absence of hydrocarbon or sulfide emanations, thermophilic bacterial sulfate reduction likely was active around these Ordovician vents.

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