Widespread diffuse venting and large microbial iron-mounds in the Red Sea

Froukje M. van der Zwan*, Nico Augustin, Sven Petersen, Sharifah M. Altalhi, Júnia Schultz, Raquel S. Peixoto, Jörg Follmann, Arthur Anker, Francesca Benzoni, Evelyn R. Garcia Paredes, Murtadha Al Malallah, Lera Shepard, Mustapha Ouhssain, S. Beatrice Jägerup, Burton H. Jones, Alexandre S. Rosado

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For decades, hydrothermal activity along the Red Sea Rift was only inferred from metalliferous sediments and hot brines. Active hydrothermal fluid discharge was never directly observed from this young ocean basin, but could be key to understanding the evolution of hydrothermal vent fields and associated life. Here we report the discovery of widespread diffuse venting at Hatiba Mons, the largest axial volcano in the Red Sea. The active vent fields are composed of iron-oxyhydroxide mounds, host thriving microbial communities and are larger and more abundant than those known from any other (ultra) slow-spreading mid-ocean ridge. Diffuse venting, controlled by intense faulting, and the lack of vent-specific macrofauna, are likely causes for the abundant microbial mats that dominate and built up the hydrothermal mounds. These microbe-rich hydrothermal vent fields, occurring in a warm ocean, may be analogous to Precambrian environments hosting early life and supporting the formation of large iron deposits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number496
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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