Serpentinite belongs to the serpentine group. This group of minerals are metamorphic minerals caused a special process called serpentinization.

Serpentinization created serpentinite on the Earth's deep sea floor. Serpentinite is paramagnetic which creates a magnetic field for the mineral.

While researching this unusual mineral scientists found microbes within its structure. After study scientists suggest that these microbes are the origins of life.

What is the connection between the microbes and serpentinite?

  • $\begingroup$ @Michael-I have a couple varieties and have did some research to why the microbes are present, but they seem to be inconclusive. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2016 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Serpentinisation is usually associated with formation of methane and hydrogen, and microbes can feed on that. Are you familiar with Lost City? $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Feb 24, 2016 at 10:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael- Microbes using the mineral as a energy source by feeding is the most referred reason I have found but even that is scarce to find. Do you find your source credible or still in research? $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2016 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael-Ive seen the same information but not referred to the lost city. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2016 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael-I haven't found proof or a reference but Im almost sure the Tardigrade "Water Bear" is one of the microbes that are in Serpentinite.Hes my favorite creature of all life on Earth and can thrive in those underwater toxic vents. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2016 at 10:57

3 Answers 3


The most common explanation for microbial activity in serpentinites is the exploitation of abiogentic hydrogen and methane formed during the serpentinisation process.

Quoting the abstract of a recent authoritative review:

The process of serpentinization creates strongly reducing conditions and produces fluids that are highly enriched in molecular hydrogen and methane. Some microorganisms are able to exploit these compounds to gain metabolic energy and to generate biomass, leading to the development of biological communities based on chemical energy rather than photosynthesis. The abundance of chemical energy and favorable conditions for organic synthesis make serpentinites a strong candidate for the site of the origin of life on Earth, as well as a prime target in the search for life elsewhere in our Solar System.

From Serpentinites, Hydrogen, and Life (may be paywalled).

You might also find this review interesting: Serpentinization, Carbon, and Deep Life (should be free to access).

These two papers present the current thinking in this subject.


The microbes are not "in" serpentinite; serpentinite is a rock formed by hydrothermal alteration of mafic and ultramafic rocks resulting in the formation of magnetite and the release of hydrocarbon compounds as fluids and gasses (methane, CO2). The microscopic life that takes advantage of the conditions formed by serpentinisation does so in the deep waters of the ocean where it takes place. Mixing of these heavily reduced fluids with seawater creates conditions where chemolithoautotrophic can thrive. The fossil assemblages exist in calcite and brucite veins within the subseafloor lithology, but not within the serpentinised areas.


Serpentinites is paramagnetic,And certain microbes known to be paramagnetic also, these microbes are atracted to magnetic field lines.These microbes thrive in evironments where little to no oxygen is present.

Olivine morphs into Serpentinite due to serpentization process, These minerals are classified as Metamorphic minerales serpentine means "To Change" in Greek.

Olivine is documented to be in abundance on the planet Mars as well as Methane which only means the serpentinization process is taking place, the energy needed to support biotic and biological organisms.

China's Jade Rabbit moon mission documented they have discovered discovered Olivine, Unkown to be present on Earths moon.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, this answer as it stands is unclear and hard to understand. Could you please improve it? Otherwise it might get deleted. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Feb 26, 2016 at 19:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Olivine is long known to exist to the moon and other solar system bodies. Given that it's the simplest mineral made out of Mg, Fe and Si, it would be surprising not to find it. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Feb 27, 2016 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael- But this is how it can support life- High Alkaline ph will will start the serpentinization process that generates H2 a geochemical source of energy that can support biotic and biological synthesis of a organic molecule. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2016 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael- Microbes can produce methane with room temperature water carborbon dioxide a catalyst. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2016 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Micheal-Some meteorites are composed of Olivine, Olivine is flame retardant and can with stand the highest of temperatures.So yes it is likely to be on most planets within the Universe. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2016 at 8:30

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