Marine Fe-Mn oxyhydroxide crusts form by precipitation of dissolved components from seawater. Three hydrogenetic crust samples (one phosphatized) and two hydrothermal Mn-oxide samples were subjected to a sequential-leaching procedure in order to determine the host phases of 40 elements. Those host-phase associations are discussed with respect to element speciation in seawater. The partitioning of elements between the two major phases, Mn oxide and Fe oxyhydroxide, can in a first-order approximation be explained by a simple sorption model related to the inorganic speciation of the elements in seawater, as has been proposed in earlier models. Free and weakly complexed cations, such as alkali and alkaline earth metals, Mn, Co, Ni, Zn, T1(I), and partly Y, are sorbed preferentially on the negatively charged surface of the MnO2 in hydrogenetic crusts. The driving force is a strong coulombic interaction. All neutral or negatively charged chloro (Cd, Hg, T1), carbonate (Cu, Y, Pb, and U), and hydroxide (Be, Sc, Ti, Fe, Zr, Nb, In, Sn, Sb, Te, Hf, Ta, Bi, Th, and T1(III)) complexes and oxyanions (V, Cr, As, Se, Mo, and W) bind to the slightly positively charged surface of the amorphous FeOOH phase. While coulombic interaction can explain the sorption of the negatively charged species, the binding of neutral species is based on specific chemical interaction. Organic complexation of elements in deep-ocean water seems to be at most of minor importance. Surface oxidation can explain some strong metal associations, e.g. of Co and T1 with the MnO2 and Te with the FeOOH. Sorption reactions initially driven by coulombic forces are often followed by the formation of specific bonds between the adsorbate and the atoms of the oxide surface. Differences in the associations of some metals between the non-phosphatized and phosphatized hydrogenetic crusts and between the hydrogenetic and the hydrothermal samples reflect the different physico-chemical environments of formation and speciations in oxic seawater vs. less-oxic fluids, especially for the redox-sensitive metals such as Mo and V. These environmental-related differences indicate that the methodology of chemical speciation used here in combination with spectroscopic methods may allow for the detection of changes in paleoceanographic conditions recorded during the several tens of millions of years of crust growth. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.