The recent recognition of a potentially vast, unexplored hot microbial biosphere associated with active volcanism along the global mid-ocean ridge network has fundamentally shifted concepts of how planets and life coevolve. Many processes intrinsic to the dynamics of the spreading center volcanic system provide partial or complete nutritional fluxes that support diverse microbial communities that thrive under extreme conditions on and beneath the seafloor. Mantle melting, volcanism, and fluid-rock reactions transport volatiles from the asthenosphere to the hydrosphere. Volcanic heat and exothermic reactions drive circulation of nutrient-rich fluids from which chemosynthetic organisms gain metabolic energy. In turn, many of these organisms symbiotically support macrofaunal communities that populate the vents. Long-term seafloor observatories will allow exploration of linkages between volcanism and this newly discovered biosphere. Such approaches may provide essential new information about our own planet while providing critically needed insights into how we can explore other planets for life.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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