Although nobody has yet found another field like Lost City, Kelley says she's 100 percent sure others exist because there are so many other places mantle rock has been thrust up through the seafloor, exposing it to seawater and serpentinization.
Even more such rocks were present on early Earth, Kelley says.
"We don't, in most places, have access to early Earth conditions so if we can understand the chemical reactions, sources of energy and how fluids circulate through Lost City, it may give us insight into how life started on this planet," Kelley says.
She says Lost City could be compared to places on land with similar rock that is very old, such as that exposed in Barberton, South Africa, which is 3.5 billion years old. Perhaps Lost City can provide additional biomarkers, the chemical remnants of organisms, with which to look for life in those ancient rocks or on other planets.
The work being published was funded by the NSF, NASA Astrobiology Institute and a Swiss national science grant.
"The findings are an exciting example of NSF's commitment to discovery through basic research," said Bilal Haq, director of NSF's marine geology and geophysics program. "Lost City shows us that geological, chemical and biological processes are intimately linked at a primal environment, and lends strong support to the need for interdisciplinary approaches to scientific research."
Other co-authors are Gretchen Früh-Green, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; Dana Yoerger, John Hayes, Kate Buckman, Sean Sylva and Mike Jakuba, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; David Butt