Extremities:  Geology and Life in Yellowstone and Implications for Other Worlds


Nymph Lake is a pretty place, right along the road, that gives little sign of extreme conditions. It was our example of hot, highly acid waters and the microbial communities they support.

Nymph Lake
Nymph Creek

Nymph Lake from the road. The white deposits in the foreground are silica and sulfates from the many very hot springs there. Across the lake, steam plumes waft from another hydrothermal area. Nymph Creek, where we examined and sampled mats, is about 20 meters to the left of this view.
Nymph Creek itself, under the fallen trees, is studied intensely for its unusual biology. This scene is just downstream from the hot spring vents, and includes the spot where we sampled microbial mats.
Hot Acid Vent

One of the hot springs that feeds Nymph Creek. Water flows from a straight crack alongside the stream course. We measured the temperature here as 60°C, which is relatively cool for this area. As is typical of springs in this area, the water is very acid, pH=3, and is stinky rich in sulfur.
Closeup of this spring. The white filaments are the microbe Hydrogenobacter, which thrives here at 60°C, pH =3 and high sulfur. Like Aquifex and Thermotoga, it gets energy by reacting oxygen from the air with hydrogen gas and/or sulfide in the water. It uses the energy to make carbohydrate (sugar) from atmospheric carbon dioxide and hydrogen in the water: CO2 + 2 H2 = CH2O + H2O (where CH2O is part of a carbohydrate).

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Updated 11/15/02.
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