Here we examine Fe speciation within Fe-encrusted biofilms formed during 2-month seafloor incubations of sulfide mineral assemblages at the Main Endeavor Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The biofilms were distributed heterogeneously across the surface of the incubated sulfide and composed primarily of particles with a twisted stalk morphology resembling those produced by some aerobic Fe-oxidizing microorganisms. Our objectives were to determine the form of biofilm-associated Fe, and identify the sulfide minerals associated with microbial growth. We used micro-focused synchrotron-radiation X-ray fluorescence mapping (μXRF), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (μΕXAFS), and X-ray diffraction (μXRD) in conjunction with focused ion beam (FIB) sectioning, and high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM). The chemical and mineralogical composition of an Fe-encrusted biofilm was queried at different spatial scales, and the spatial relationship between primary sulfide and secondary oxyhydroxide minerals was resolved. The Fe-encrusted biofilms formed preferentially at pyrrhotite-rich (Fe1-xS, 0 ≤ x ≤ 0.2) regions of the incubated chimney sulfide. At the nanometer spatial scale, particles within the biofilm exhibiting lattice fringing and diffraction patterns consistent with 2-line ferrihydrite were identified infrequently. At the micron spatial scale, Fe μEXAFS spectroscopy and μXRD measurements indicate that the dominant form of biofilm Fe is a short-range ordered Fe oxyhydroxide characterized by pervasive edge-sharing Fe-O6 octahedral linkages. Double corner-sharing Fe-O6 linkages, which are common to Fe oxyhydroxide mineral structures of 2-line ferrihydrite, 6-line ferrihydrite, and goethite, were not detected in the biogenic iron oxyhydroxide (BIO). The suspended development of the BIO mineral structure is consistent with Fe(III) hydrolysis and polymerization in the presence of high concentrations of Fe-complexing ligands. We hypothesize that microbiologically produced Fe-complexing ligands may play critical roles in both the delivery of Fe(II) to oxidases, and the limited Fe(III) oxyhydroxide crystallinity observed within the biofilm. Our research provides insight into the structure and formation of naturally occurring, microbiologically produced Fe oxyhydroxide minerals in the deep-sea. We describe the initiation of microbial seafloor weathering, and the morphological and mineralogical signals that result from that process. Our observations provide a starting point from which progressively older and more extensively weathered seafloor sulfide minerals may be examined, with the ultimate goal of improved interpretation of ancient microbial processes and associated biological signatures.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
B.M.T.’s research was funded by a NASA Astrobiology Institute, National Research Council/NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship. Project funding was supplied by NSF RIDGE2000 Grants OCE-0096992 (to K.J.E.) and OCE-0241791 (to K.J.E. and W.B.), and a NASA NAI Grant (to K.J.E.). We thank Jeffery Seewald for the opportunity to participate on a cruise to deploy the samples and Margaret Tivey for sample recovery. We thank Sirine Fakra and Nobumichi Tamura for help with data collection on BLs 10.3.2 and 7.3.3, and David Emerson for discussions regarding the manuscript. Research conducted on at the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, and Division of Materials Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under contract number DE-AC02-05CH11232. Appendix A