Q:

How are ocean ridges formed?

A:

Quick Answer

Mid-ocean ridges form when tectonic plates meet beneath the ocean and ridge-push, slab-pull or do both to create a subduction zone. Over time, one plate raises up. This, along with the simultaneous magma buildup, creates a submarine mountain range, or ocean ridge.

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Full Answer

When tectonic plates meet, they are essentially unstoppable forces, which means something must give. Usually, one plate slides beneath the other, lifting the edge of the second plate, creating a subduction zone. As the subduction zone grows, magma seeps in through the cracks and edges of the plate, quickly cooling as it hits the surface. These underwater actions have raised tall mountain range systems totalling about 37,000 miles in length altogether.

Around the ridge, the cracks and gaps that allow magma to escape also allow ocean water to seep in. When it meets the deep-earth magma, it picks up heavy metals conveyed up from the earth's core, such as gold and iron. The super-heated, mineral-rich water then returns through hydrothermal vents at temperatures up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The sudden shock of hitting cold ocean water causes minerals to precipitate out quickly, creating rich ore deposits and supporting the habitats of deep-ocean microbes. These microbes, in turn, provide a food source for tubeworms, shrimp and mussels, creating a strange ecosystem that could not exist without the mid-ocean ridge's hydrothermal vents.

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Related Questions

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    How do hydrothermal vents form?

    A:

    Hydrothermal vents form in mid-ocean ridges where tectonic plates are spreading apart and seawater percolates down fissures and is heated by hot magma. They were first seen in 1977 in the Galapagos Islands by scientists who discovered that bacteria were converting toxic vent materials into usable energy for other organisms that had never been seen before.

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  • Q:

    What is the definition of tectonic plates ?

    A:

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey website, tectonic plates are massive, irregular-shaped slabs of solid rock, composed of oceanic and continental lithosphere. The continental crust is made up of lightweight minerals like feldspar and quartz, while the oceanic crust is made of heavier and denser basaltic rocks.

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  • Q:

    How does continental drift happen?

    A:

    Continents rest on massive plates known as tectonic plates, which are fluid and able to move due to the mantle and magma underneath, and as the tectonic plates move about, they cause continental drift to happen. The concept of continental drift was first described in the early 20th century by German scientist Alfred Wegener, who explained that continental landmasses were actually drifting across the Earth. This is opposed to the original theory that landmasses are fixed and immobile.

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    What causes continental drift?

    A:

    Continental drift is caused by movement of the tectonic plates that continents sit on top of. Continental drift has continuously occurred throughout time, and continues to do so today. Rough estimates say that Europe and North America are drifting away from each other 2.5 centimeters per year.

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