Marine Science Faculty Publications

Cold Seeps Associated with a Submarine Debris Avalanche Deposit at Kick’em Jenny Volcano, Grenada (Lesser Antilles)

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Cold seeps, Debris avalanche, Submarine volcano, Kick’em Jenny

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Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) exploration at the distal margins of a debris avalanche deposit from Kick’em Jenny submarine volcano in Grenada has revealed areas of cold seeps with chemosynthetic-based ecosystems. The seeps occur on steep slopes of deformed, unconsolidated hemipelagic sediments in water depths between 1952 and 2042 m. Two main areas consist of anastomosing systems of fluid flow that have incised local sediments by several tens of centimeters. No temperature anomalies were observed in the vent areas and no active flow was visually observed, suggesting that the venting may be waning. An Eh sensor deployed on a miniature autonomous plume recorder (MAPR) recorded a positive signal and the presence of live organisms indicates at least some venting is still occurring. The chemosynthetic-based ecosystem included giant mussels (Bathymodiolus sp.) with commensal polychaetes (Branchipolynoe sp.) and cocculinid epibionts, other bivalves, Siboglinida (vestimentiferan) tubeworms, other polychaetes, and shrimp, as well as associated heterotrophs, including gastropods, anemones, crabs, fish, octopods, brittle stars, and holothurians. The origin of the seeps may be related to fluid overpressure generated during the collapse of an ancestral Kick’em Jenny volcano. We suggest that deformation and burial of hemipelagic sediment at the front and base of the advancing debris avalanche led to fluid venting at the distal margin. Such deformation may be a common feature of marine avalanches in a variety of geological environments especially along continental margins, raising the possibility of creating large numbers of ephemeral seep-based ecosystems.

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Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, v. 93, p. 156-160