Subsurface processes at the lucky strike hydrothermal field, Mid-Atlantic ridge: Evidence from sulfur, selenium, and iron isotopes

Olivier Rouxel*, Yves Fouquet, John N. Ludden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Citations (Scopus)


At Lucky Strike near the Azores Triple Junction, the seafloor setting of the hydrothermal field in a caldera system with abundant low-permeability layers of cemented breccia, provides a unique opportunity to study the influence of subsurface geological conditions on the hydrothermal fluid evolution. Coupled analyses of S isotopes performed in conjunction with Se and Fe isotopes have been applied for the first time to the study of seafloor hydrothermal systems. These data provide a tool for resolving the different abiotic and potential biotic near-surface hydrothermal reactions. The δ34S (between 1.5‰ and 4.6‰) and Se values (between 213 and 1640 ppm) of chalcopyrite suggest a high temperature end-member hydrothermal fluid with a dual source of sulfur: sulfur that was leached from basaltic rocks, and sulfur derived from the reduction of seawater sulfate. In contrast, pyrite and marcasite generally have lower δ34S within the range of magmatic values (0 ± 1‰) and are characterized by low concentrations of Se (<50 ppm). For 82Se/76Se ratios, the δ82Se values range from basaltic values of near -1.5‰ to -7‰. The large range and highly negative values of hydrothermal deposits observed cannot be explained by simple mixing between Se leached from igneous rock and Se derived from seawater. We interpret the Se isotope signature to be a result of leaching and mixing of a fractionated Se source located beneath hydrothermal chimneys in the hydrothermal fluid. At Lucky Strike we consider two sources for S and Se: (1) the "end-member" hydrothermal fluid with basaltic Se isotopic values (-1.5‰) and typical S isotope hydrothermal values of 1.5‰; (2) a fractionated source hosted in subsurface environment with negative δ34S values, probably from bacterial reduction of seawater sulfate and negative δ82Se values possibly derived from inorganic reduction of Se oxyanions. Fluid trapped in the subsurface environment is conductively cooled and has restricted mixing and provide favorable conditions for subsurface microbial activity which is potentially recorded by S isotopes. Fe isotope systematic reveals that Se-rich high temperature samples have δ57Fe values close to basaltic values (∼0‰) whereas Se-depleted samples precipitated at medium to low temperature are systematically lighter (δ57Fe values between -1 to -3‰). An important implication of our finding is that light Fe isotope composition down to -3.2‰ may be explained entirely by abiotic fractionation, in which a reservoir effect during sulfide precipitation was able to produce highly fractionated compositions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2295-2311
Number of pages17
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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