Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2018-520
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2018-520
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 24 Jan 2019

Research article | 24 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Subaqueous speleothems (Hells Bells) formed by the interplay of pelagic redoxcline biogeochemistry and specific hydraulic conditions in the El Zapote sinkhole, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Simon Michael Ritter1, Margot Isenbeck-Schröter1,2, Christian Scholz1, Frank Keppler1,2, Johannes Gescher3,4, Lukas Klose1, Nils Schorndorf1, Jerónimo Avilés Olguín5, Arturo González-González6, and Wolfgang Stinnesbeck1,2 Simon Michael Ritter et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Sciences, Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 234-236, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE), Heidelberg University, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  • 3Institute for Applied Biosciences, Department of Applied Biology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 4Institute for Biological Interfaces, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany
  • 5Instituto de la Prehistoria de América, Carretera federal 307, km 282, Solidaridad, 77711 Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, México
  • 6Museo del Desierto, Carlos Abedrop Davila 3745, Nuevo Centro Metropolitano de Saltillo, 25022 Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

Abstract. Unique bell-shaped underwater speleothems were recently reported from the deep (~ 55 m) meromictic El Zapote sinkhole (cenote) on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. The local diving community has termed these speleothems as Hells Bells because of their shape and appearance in a lightless environment in ~ 28–38 m water depth above a sulfidic halocline. It was also suggested that Hells Bells form under water, yet the mystery of their formation remained unresolved. Therefore, we conducted detailed hydrogeochemical and geochemical analyses of the water column and Hells Bells speleothems including stable carbon isotopes. Based on the comprehensive results presented in this study we deduce that both, biogeochemical processes in the pelagic redoxcline and a dynamic halocline elevation of El Zapote cenote, are essential for Hells Bells formation. Hells Bells most likely form in the redoxcline, a narrow 1–2 m thick water layer immediately above the halocline where a pelagic chemolithoautotrophic microbial community thrives from the upward diffusion of reduced carbon, nitrogen and sulfur species released from organic matter degradation in organic-rich debris. We hypothesize that chemolithoautotrophy, in particular the proton consuming nitrate-driven anaerobic sulfide oxidation, favors calcite precipitation in the redoxcline and hence Hells Bells formation. A dynamic elevation of the halocline as a hydraulic response to recharge events, e.g. hurricanes, is further discussed, which might explain the shape of Hells Bells as well as their occurrence over a range of 10 m water depth. Finally, we infer apparent prerequisites for Hells Bells formation considering the exclusivity of these underwater speleothems to only a few cenotes of a restricted area of the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula.

Simon Michael Ritter et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: open (until 07 Mar 2019)
Status: open (until 07 Mar 2019)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
[Subscribe to comment alert] Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement
Simon Michael Ritter et al.
Video supplement

Hells Bells - Under water speleothems from the Yucatán Peninsula S. Ritter https://doi.org/10.5446/39353

Simon Michael Ritter et al.
Viewed  
Total article views: 332 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
270 61 1 332 13 0 1
  • HTML: 270
  • PDF: 61
  • XML: 1
  • Total: 332
  • Supplement: 13
  • BibTeX: 0
  • EndNote: 1
Views and downloads (calculated since 24 Jan 2019)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 24 Jan 2019)
Viewed (geographical distribution)  
Total article views: 178 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 178 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
1
 
 
 
 
Cited  
Saved  
No saved metrics found.
Discussed  
Latest update: 17 Feb 2019
Publications Copernicus
Download
Short summary
Unique and spectacular under water speleothems termed as Hells Bells where recently reported from sinkholes (cenotes) of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. However, the mystery of their formation remained unresolved. Here, we present detailed geochemical analyses and delineate that the growth of Hells Bells results from a combination of biogeochemical processes and variable hydraulic conditions within the cenote.
Unique and spectacular under water speleothems termed as Hells Bells where recently reported...
Citation