Hydrothermal nontronite formation at Eolo Seamount (Aeolian volcanic arc, Tyrrhenian Sea)

Vesselin M. Dekov, George D. Kamenov, Jens Stummeyer, Médard Thiry, Carlo Savelli, Wayne C. Shanks, Danielle Fortin, Erno Kuzmann, Attila Vértes

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A sediment core containing a yellowish-green clay bed was recovered from an area of extensive hydrothermal deposition at the SE slope of the Eolo Seamount, Tyrrhenian Sea. The clay bed is composed of pure nontronite (described for the first time in the Tyrrhenian Sea), which appears to be the most aluminous nontronite ever found among the seafloor hydrothermal deposits. The high Al content suggests precipitation from Al-containing hydrothermal solutions. The REE distribution of the Eolo nontronite has a V-shape pattern. The heavy REE enrichment is in part due to their preferential partitioning in the nontronite structure. This enrichment was possibly further enhanced by the HREE preferential sorption on bacterial cell walls. The light REE enrichment is the result of scavenging uptake by one of the nontronite precursors, i.e., poorly-ordered Fe-oxyhydroxides, from the hydrothermal fluids. Oxygen isotopic composition of the nontronite yields a formation temperature of 30 °C, consistent with a low-temperature hydrothermal origin. The relatively radiogenic Nd isotopic signature of the nontronite compared to the present-day Mediterranean seawater indicates that approximately half of Nd, and presumably the rest of the LREE, are derived from local volcanic sources. On the other hand, 87Sr/86Sr is dominated by present-day seawater Sr. Scanning electron microscopy investigation revealed that the nontronite is composed of aggregates of lepispheres and tube-like filaments, which are indicative of bacteria assisted precipitation. Bacteria inhabiting this hydrothermal site likely acted as reactive geochemical surfaces on which poorly-ordered hydrothermal Fe-oxyhydroxides and silica precipitated. Upon aging, the interactions of these primary hydrothermal precipitates coating bacterial filaments and cell walls likely led to the formation of nontronite. Finally, the well-balanced interlayer and layer charges of the crystal lattice of seafloor hydrothermal nontronite decrease its sorption capacity to zero. Thus the ubiquitous nontronite precipitation along the active plate boundaries and around the hot spots has no significant impact on oceanic trace element chemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-119
Number of pages17
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 30 2007


  • Eolo Seamount
  • Hydrothermal activity
  • Nontronite precipitation
  • Tyrrhenian Sea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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    Dekov, V. M., Kamenov, G. D., Stummeyer, J., Thiry, M., Savelli, C., Shanks, W. C., Fortin, D., Kuzmann, E., & Vértes, A. (2007). Hydrothermal nontronite formation at Eolo Seamount (Aeolian volcanic arc, Tyrrhenian Sea). Chemical Geology, 245(1-2), 103-119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2007.08.006