Energy for biologic sulfate reduction in a hydrothermally formed ocean on Europa

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64 Scopus citations


Formation of a sulfate-bearing ocean on Jupiter's satellite Europa by quenched hydrothermal fluids provides a source of metabolic energy for low-temperature sulfate-reducing organisms that use dissolved H2 as an electron donor. Inhibition of thermodynamically favorable sulfate reduction in cooled hydrothermal fluids creates the potential for biologic reduction. Both high temperature and reduced conditions of ocean-forming hydrothermal solutions favor sulfate reduction in quenched fluids. The maximum amount of energy available to support autotrophic sulfate reduction is on the order of a few kilojoules per kilogram of water and is limited by the low abundances of either H2 or sulfate in ocean-forming fluids. Although this irreplaceable energy source might have supported early life on Europa, maintenance of biologic sulfate reduction throughout the ocean's history would require a supply of organic compounds from endogenic sources or from the satellite's surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-1 - 3-9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 25 2003


  • Europa
  • Life
  • Ocean
  • Sulfate reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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