Fossilized diatoms of siliceous hydrothermal deposits in Yellowstone National Park, USA

Diatom Research
By: , and 



The study of eukaryotic extremophiles is relatively novel, and, therefore, documentation of the structure and function of micro-organisms in continental hydrothermal systems globally is limited. In this study, we investigate fossil diatoms in siliceous hydrothermal deposits of the Upper Geyser and Yellowstone Lake hydrothermal basins in Yellowstone National Park, and utilize preserved diatom assemblages to infer local environmental conditions. Siliceous sinter from both the Upper Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake contains evidence of in-situ diatom growth within these environments. At Upper Geyser Basin, the assemblage consisted of species that could grow on moist siliceous sinter and was dominated by Rhopalodia gibberula. Diatom valves were found in various preservation states, ranging from nearly pristine to highly diagenetically altered. Diatoms collected from siliceous spires in Yellowstone Lake consisted largely of tychoplanktonic and benthic species that were almost certainly growing on the outside of the structure, with an assemblage indicative of relatively shallow, alkaline waters. What remains unclear without access to material for high-resolution dating is whether diatoms colonized the spires during hydrothermal activity or after activity ceased. Our results indicate that diatom frustules can, to some extent, survive alteration in low-temperature (<76°C) hydrothermal environments.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Fossilized diatoms of siliceous hydrothermal deposits in Yellowstone National Park, USA
Series title Diatom Research
DOI 10.1080/0269249X.2019.1698466
Volume 34
Issue 4
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center, Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 193
Last page 204
Country United States
State Wyoming
Other Geospatial Yellowstone National Park
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