Last updated
The Bear Seamount (left), a guyot in the northern Atlantic Ocean Bear Seamount guyot.jpg
The Bear Seamount (left), a guyot in the northern Atlantic Ocean

In marine geology, a guyot (pronounced /ɡˈj/ ), also known as a tablemount, is an isolated underwater volcanic mountain (seamount) with a flat top more than 200 m (660 ft) below the surface of the sea. The diameters of these flat summits can exceed 10 km (6.2 mi). [1] Guyots are most commonly found in the Pacific Ocean, but they have been identified in all the oceans except the Arctic Ocean.



Guyots were first recognized in 1945 by Harry Hammond Hess, who collected data using echo-sounding equipment on a ship he commanded during World War II. [2] His data showed that some undersea mountains had flat tops. Hess called these undersea mountains "guyots," after the 19th-century geographer Arnold Henry Guyot. [3] Hess postulated they were once volcanic islands that were beheaded by wave action, yet they are now deep under sea level. This idea was used to help bolster the theory of plate tectonics. [2]


Guyots show evidence of having once been above the surface, with gradual subsidence through stages from fringed reefed mountain, coral atoll, and finally a flat-topped submerged mountain. [1] Seamounts are made by extrusion of lavas piped upward in stages from sources within the Earth's mantle, usually hotspots, to vents on the seafloor. The volcanism invariably ceases after a time, and other processes dominate. When an undersea volcano grows high enough to be near or breach the ocean surface, wave action and/or coral reef growth tend to create a flat-topped edifice. However, all ocean crust and guyots form from hot magma and/or rock, which cools over time. As the lithosphere that the future guyot rides on slowly cools, it becomes denser and sinks lower into Earth's mantle, through the process of isostasy. In addition, the erosive effects of waves and currents are found mostly near the surface: the tops of guyots generally lie below this higher-erosion zone.

This is the same process that gives rise to higher seafloor topography at oceanic ridges, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean, and deeper ocean at abyssal plains and oceanic trenches, such as the Mariana Trench. Thus, the island or shoal that will eventually become a guyot slowly subsides over millions of years. In the right climatic regions, coral growth can sometimes keep pace with the subsidence, resulting in coral atoll formation, but eventually the corals dip too deep to grow and the island becomes a guyot. The greater the amount of time that passes, the deeper the guyots become. [4]

Seamounts provide data on movements of tectonic plates on which they ride, and on the rheology of the underlying lithosphere. The trend of a seamount chain traces the direction of motion of the lithospheric plate over a more or less fixed heat source in the underlying asthenosphere, the part of the Earth's mantle beneath the lithosphere. [5] There are thought to be up to an estimated 50,000 seamounts in the Pacific basin. [6] The Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain is an excellent example of an entire volcanic chain undergoing this process, from active volcanism, to coral reef growth, to atoll formation, to subsidence of the islands and becoming guyots.


The steepness gradient of most guyots is about 20 degrees. To technically be considered a guyot or tablemount, they must stand at least 900 m (3,000 ft) tall. [7] One guyot in particular, the Great Meteor Tablemount in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, stands at more than 4,000 m (13,000 ft) high, with a diameter of 110 km (68 mi). [8] However, there are many undersea mounts that can range from just less than 90 m (300 ft) to around 900 m (3,000 ft). [7] Very large oceanic volcanic constructions, hundreds of kilometres across, are called oceanic plateaus. [9] Guyots are much larger in area (mean of 3,313 km2 (1,279 sq mi)) than typical seamounts (mean area of 790 km2 (310 sq mi)). [10]

There are 283 known guyots in the world's oceans, with the North Pacific having 119, the South Pacific 77, the South Atlantic 43, the Indian Ocean 28, the North Atlantic eight, the Southern Ocean six, and the Mediterranean Sea two; there are none known in the Arctic Ocean, though one is found along the Fram Strait off northeastern Greenland. [11] Guyots are also associated with specific lifeforms and varying amounts of organic matter. Local increases in chlorophyll a, enhanced carbon incorporation rates and changes in phytoplankton species composition are associated with guyots and other seamounts. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

Seamount A mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the waters surface

A seamount is a large geologic landform that rises from the ocean floor but that does not reach to the water's surface, and thus is not an island, islet or cliff-rock. Seamounts are typically formed from extinct volcanoes that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from the seafloor to 1,000–4,000 m (3,300–13,100 ft) in height. They are defined by oceanographers as independent features that rise to at least 1,000 m (3,281 ft) above the seafloor, characteristically of conical form. The peaks are often found hundreds to thousands of meters below the surface, and are therefore considered to be within the deep sea. During their evolution over geologic time, the largest seamounts may reach the sea surface where wave action erodes the summit to form a flat surface. After they have subsided and sunk below the sea surface such flat-top seamounts are called "guyots" or "tablemounts".

Convergent boundary Region of active deformation between colliding lithospheric plates

A convergent boundary is an area on Earth where two or more lithospheric plates collide. One plate eventually slides beneath the other causing a process known as subduction. The subduction zone can be defined by a plane where many earthquakes occur, called the Wadati–Benioff zone. These collisions happen on scales of millions to tens of millions of years and can lead to volcanism, earthquakes, orogenesis, destruction of lithosphere, and deformation. Convergent boundaries occur between oceanic-oceanic lithosphere, oceanic-continental lithosphere, and continental-continental lithosphere. The geologic features related to convergent boundaries vary depending on crust types.

Mantle plume An upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earths mantle

A mantle plume is a proposed mechanism of convection of abnormally hot rock within the Earth's mantle. Because the plume head partly melts on reaching shallow depths, a plume is often invoked as the cause of volcanic hotspots, such as Hawaii or Iceland, and large igneous provinces such as the Deccan and Siberian traps. Some such volcanic regions lie far from tectonic plate boundaries, while others represent unusually large-volume volcanism near plate boundaries.

Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain A mostly undersea mountain range in the Pacific Ocean that reaches above sea level in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain is a mostly undersea mountain range in the Pacific Ocean that reaches above sea level in Hawaii. It is composed of the Hawaiian ridge, consisting of the islands of the Hawaiian chain northwest to Kure Atoll, and the Emperor Seamounts: together they form a vast underwater mountain region of islands and intervening seamounts, atolls, shallows, banks and reefs along a line trending southeast to northwest beneath the northern Pacific Ocean. The seamount chain, containing over 80 identified undersea volcanoes, stretches about 6,200 kilometres (3,900 mi) from the Aleutian Trench in the far northwest Pacific to the Loʻihi seamount, the youngest volcano in the chain, which lies about 35 kilometres (22 mi) southeast of the Island of Hawaiʻi.

Mid-ocean ridge underwater mountain system formed by plate tectonic spreading

A mid-ocean ridge (MOR) is a seafloor mountain system formed by plate tectonics. It typically has a depth of ~ 2,600 meters (8,500 ft) and rises about two kilometers above the deepest portion of an ocean basin. This feature is where seafloor spreading takes place along a divergent plate boundary. The rate of seafloor spreading determines the morphology of the crest of the mid-ocean ridge and its width in an ocean basin. The production of new seafloor and oceanic lithosphere results from mantle upwelling in response to plate separation. The melt rises as magma at the linear weakness between the separating plates, and emerges as lava, creating new oceanic crust and lithosphere upon cooling. The first discovered mid-ocean ridge was the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is a spreading center that bisects the North and South Atlantic basins; hence the origin of the name 'mid-ocean ridge'. Most oceanic spreading centers are not in the middle of their hosting ocean basis but regardless, are traditionally called mid-ocean ridges. Mid-ocean ridges around the globe are linked by plate tectonic boundaries and the trace of the ridges across the ocean floor appears similar to the seam of a baseball. The mid-ocean ridge system thus is the longest mountain range on Earth, reaching about 65,000 km (40,000 mi).

Magmatism geological process

Magmatism is the emplacement of magma within and at the surface of the outer layers of a terrestrial planet, which solidifies as igneous rocks. It does so through magmatic activity or igneous activity, the production, intrusion and extrusion of magma or lava. Volcanism is the surface expression of magmatism.

Hawaii hotspot A volcanic hotspot located near the Hawaiian Islands, in the northern Pacific Ocean

The Hawaii hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located near the namesake Hawaiian Islands, in the northern Pacific Ocean. One of the best known and intensively studied hotspots in the world, the Hawaii plume is responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, a 6,200-kilometer (3,900 mi) mostly undersea volcanic mountain range. Four of these volcanoes are active, two are dormant; more than 123 are extinct, most now preserved as atolls or seamounts. The chain extends from south of the island of Hawaiʻi to the edge of the Aleutian Trench, near the eastern coast of Russia.

Delamination (geology) Process occurring when lower continental crust and mantle lithosphere break away from the upper continental crust

In geodynamics, delamination refers to the loss and sinking (foundering) of the portion of the lowermost lithosphere from the tectonic plate to which it was attached.

This is a list of articles related to plate tectonics and tectonic plates.

Geology of the Pacific Ocean overview about the geology of the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean evolved in the Mesozoic from the Panthalassic Ocean, which had formed when Rodinia rifted apart around 750 Ma. The first ocean floor which is part of the current Pacific Plate began 160 Ma to the west of the central Pacific and subsequently developed into the largest oceanic plate on Earth.

Mid-Pacific Mountains An underwater mountain range from the southern tier of the Japan Trench to the Hawaiian Islands

The Mid-Pacific Mountains (MPM) is a large oceanic plateau located in the central North Pacific Ocean or south of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain. Of volcanic origin and Mesozoic in age, it is located on the oldest part of the Pacific Plate and rises up to 2 km (1.2 mi) above the surrounding ocean floor and is covered with several layers of thick sedimentary sequences that differ from those of other plateaux in the North Pacific. About 50 seamounts are distributed over the MPM. Some of the highest points in the range are above sea level which include Wake Island and Marcus Island.

Wōdejebato guyot in the Marshall Islands northwest of the smaller Pikinni Atoll

Wōdejebato is a Cretaceous guyot or tablemount in the northern Marshall Islands, Pacific Ocean. Wōdejebato is probably a shield volcano and is connected through a submarine ridge to the smaller Pikinni Atoll 74 kilometres (46 mi) southeast of the guyot; unlike Wōdejebato, Pikinni rises above sea level. The seamount rises for 4,420 metres (14,500 ft) to 1,335 metres (4,380 ft) depth and is formed by basaltic rocks. The name Wōdejebato refers to a sea god of Pikinni.

Limalok Cretaceous-Paleocene guyot in the Marshall Islands

Limalok is a Cretaceous-Paleocene guyot/tablemount in the southeastern Marshall Islands, one of a number of seamounts in the Pacific Ocean. It was probably formed by a volcanic hotspot in present-day French Polynesia. Limalok lies southeast of Mili Atoll and Knox Atoll, which rise above sea level, and is joined to each of them through a volcanic ridge. It is located at a depth of 1,255 metres (4,117 ft) and has a summit platform with an area of 636 square kilometres (246 sq mi).

Lo-En Albian–Campanian guyot in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean

Lo-En or Hess is an Albian–Campanian guyot in the Marshall Islands. One among a number of seamounts in the Pacific Ocean, it was probably formed by a hotspot in what is present-day French Polynesia. Lo-En lies southeast of Eniwetok which rises above sea level, and Lo-En is almost connected to it through a ridge.

Alexa Bank is a seamount in Samoa, northwest of Rotuma. The seamount reaches a depth of 18–21 metres (59–69 ft) below sea level and has the appearance of an atoll with a flat top and steep slopes. Some active coral growth takes place at its top, but if it ever was an active atoll it has now drowned. It was probably formed by the Samoa hotspot 24 million years ago, although older volcanism about 40 million years ago has also been identified.

Resolution Guyot Underwater tablemount in the Pacific Ocean

Resolution Guyot is a guyot (tablemount) in the underwater Mid-Pacific Mountains in the Pacific Ocean. It is a circular flat mountain, rising 500 metres (1,600 ft) above the seafloor to a depth of about 1,320 metres (4,330 ft), with a 35 kilometres (22 mi) wide summit platform. The Mid-Pacific Mountains lie west of Hawaii and northeast of the Marshall Islands, but at the time of its formation the guyot was located in the Southern Hemisphere.

Horizon Guyot Tablemount in the Pacific Ocean

Horizon Guyot is a presumably Cretaceous guyot (tablemount) in the Mid-Pacific Mountains, Pacific Ocean. It is an elongated ridge, over 300 kilometres (190 mi) long and 4.3 kilometres (2.7 mi) high, that stretches in a northeast-southwest direction and has two flat tops; it rises to a minimum depth of 1,443 metres (4,730 ft). The Mid-Pacific Mountains lie west of Hawaii and northeast of the Line Islands.

Allison Guyot Seamount in the Pacific Ocean

Allison Guyot is a tablemount (guyot) in the underwater Mid-Pacific Mountains of the Pacific Ocean. It is a trapezoidal flat mountain rising 1,500 metres above the seafloor to a depth of less than 1,500 m, with a summit platform 35 by 70 kilometres wide. The Mid-Pacific Mountains lie west of Hawaii and northeast of the Marshall Islands, but at the time of their formation were located in the Southern Hemisphere.

Vlinder Guyot

Vlinder Guyot is a guyot in the Western Pacific Ocean. It rises to a depth of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) and has a flat top covering an area of 40 by 50 kilometres. On top of this flat top lie some volcanic cones, one of which rises to a depth of 551 metres (1,808 ft) below sea level. Vlinder Guyot has noticeable rift zones, including an older and lower volcano to the northwest and Oma Vlinder seamount south.

Ridge push or sliding plate force is a proposed driving force for plate motion in plate tectonics that occurs at mid-ocean ridges as the result of the rigid lithosphere sliding down the hot, raised asthenosphere below mid-ocean ridges. Although it is called ridge push, the term is somewhat misleading; it is actually a body force that acts throughout an ocean plate, not just at the ridge, as a result of gravitational pull. The name comes from earlier models of plate tectonics in which ridge push was primarily ascribed to upwelling magma at mid-ocean ridges pushing or wedging the plates apart.


  1. 1 2 Guyot Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  2. 1 2 Bryson, Bill. "A Short History of Nearly Everything". New York: Broadway, 2003. p. 178
  3. Bryson, Bill (2004). A Short History of Nearly Everything. Broadway Books;. ISBN   076790818X.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  4. "Guyot". Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  5. Seamounts are made by extrusion of lavas piped upward in stages from sources within the Earth's mantle to vents on the seafloor. Seamounts provide data on movements of tectonic plates on which they ride, and on the rheology of the underlying lithosphere. The trend of a seamount chain traces the direction of motion of the lithospheric plate over a more or less fixed heat source in the underlying asthenosphere part of the Earth's mantle.
  6. Hillier, J. K. (2007). "Pacific seamount volcanism in space and time". Geophysical Journal International. 168 (2): 877–889. Bibcode:2007GeoJI.168..877H. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2006.03250.x.
  7. 1 2 "Seamount and guyot". Access Science. doi:10.1036/1097-8542.611100 . Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  8. "Great Meteor Tablemount (volcanic mountain, Atlantic Ocean) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  9. "Answers - The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  10. Harris, P.T.; Macmillan-Lawler, M.; Rupp, J.; Baker, E.K. (2014). "Geomorphology of the oceans". Marine Geology. 352: 4–24. Bibcode:2014MGeol.352....4H. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2014.01.011.
  11. . doi:10.1002/2015GC0059310 (inactive 2020-01-22).Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. Sahfos [ permanent dead link ]