Molybdenum in basalt-hosted seafloor hydrothermal systems: Experimental, theoretical, and field sampling approaches

Guy N Evans, Laurence A. Coogan, Betül Kaçar, William E. Seyfried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Seafloor hydrothermal vents represent potential sources of Mo and other biologically relevant transition metals to the global ocean, complementing continental runoff. Here, we use a combination of experimental, theoretical, and field-sampling approaches to investigate the behavior of Mo in basalt-hosted seafloor hydrothermal systems to provide insight into the processes controlling Mo concentrations in hydrothermal fluids and to derive estimates of vent fluid Mo concentrations and fluxes. Results of this study demonstrate that reaction fluids generated from 350 °C, 500 bar hydrothermal basalt alteration experiments contain 775–801 nmol/kg Mo and are thus comparable to a recently collected time series of natural seafloor vent fluids that contained 200–220 nmol/kg Mo at 302 °C and 29–30 nmol/kg at 281–282 °C (Evans et al., 2023). Synchrotron-based analyses of experimentally altered basalt produced in this study and additional natural samples of altered oceanic crust originally collected from Pito Deep Rift reveal the presence of Mo-rich particles consistent with trace molybdenite. Comparisons of Mo:Cu ratios in natural vent fluids and near-vent sediment trap samples from Main Endeavour Field indicate that vent fluid Mo is readily incorporated into buoyant plume particles and advected out of the near-vent field, analogous to previous mass balance studies of Cu in this region. Thermodynamic calculations of molybdenite solubility in the context of mineral-buffered hydrothermal fluids and comparisons with natural and experimental hydrothermal fluids suggest that high-temperature vent fluids contain 30–1500 nmol/kg Mo. While a minor component of the modern Mo budget, hydrothermal Mo fluxes are estimated to have constituted 0.3–200× the contemporaneous continental weathering fluxes prior to the ∼2.4 Ga ago “Great Oxidation Event” and widespread oxidative continental weathering. Overall, identification of hydrothermal vents as a source of Mo-rich plume particles with potential for dispersal into the wider marine environment has significant implications for hypotheses regarding the co-evolution of Life and Earth's environments, specifically the form and availability of Mo in anoxic Archean-Eon oceans, where Mo-dependent enzymatic pathways are thought to have emerged and subsequently evolved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-44
Number of pages17
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Jul 15 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Early life
  • Micronutrient
  • NASA MUSE Consortia
  • Ocean Networks Canada
  • Transition metals


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