In situ development of a methanotrophic microbiome in deep-sea sediments. Academic Article uri icon


  • Emission of the greenhouse gas methane from the seabed is globally controlled by marine aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophs gaining energy via methane oxidation. However, the processes involved in the assembly and dynamics of methanotrophic populations in complex natural microbial communities remain unclear. Here we investigated the development of a methanotrophic microbiome following subsurface mud eruptions at HÃ¥kon Mosby mud volcano (1250?m water depth). Freshly erupted muds hosted deep-subsurface communities that were dominated by Bathyarchaeota, Atribacteria and Chloroflexi. Methanotrophy was initially limited to a thin surface layer of Methylococcales populations consuming methane aerobically. With increasing distance to the eruptive center, anaerobic methanotrophic archaea, sulfate-reducing Desulfobacterales and thiotrophic Beggiatoaceae developed, and their respective metabolic capabilities dominated the biogeochemical functions of the community. Microbial richness, evenness, and cell numbers of the entire microbial community increased up to tenfold within a few years downstream of the mud flow from the eruptive center. The increasing diversity was accompanied by an up to fourfold increase in sequence abundance of relevant metabolic genes of the anaerobic methanotrophic and thiotrophic guilds. The communities fundamentally changed in their structure and functions as reflected in the metagenome turnover with distance from the eruptive center, and this was reflected in the biogeochemical zonation across the mud volcano caldera. The observed functional succession provides a framework for the response time and recovery of complex methanotrophic communities after disturbances of the deep-sea bed.

publication date

  • January 2019