Cutting through the smoke: The diversity of microorganisms in deep-sea hydrothermal plumes

A. Djurhuus, S.-O. Mikalsen, H.-A. Giebel, A.D. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


There are still notable gaps regarding the detailed distribution of microorganisms between and within insular habitats such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents. This study investigates the community composition of black smoker vent microorganisms in the Southern Hemisphere, and changes thereof along a spatial and chemical gradient ranging from the vent plume to surrounding waters. We sampled two hydrothermal vent fields, one at the South West Indian Ridge (SWIR), the other at the East Scotia Ridge (ESR). Samples were collected across vent fields at varying vertical distances from the origin of the plumes. The microbial data were sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq platform for the 16SrRNA gene. A substantial amount of vent-specific putative chemosynthetic microorganisms were found, particularly in samples from focused hydrothermal venting. Common vent-specific organisms from both vent fields were the genera Arcobacter, Caminibacter and Sulfurimonas from the Epsilonproteobacteria and the SUP05 group from the Gammaproteobacteria. There were no major differences in microbial composition between SWIR and ESR for focused plume samples. However, within the ESR the diffuse flow and focused samples differed significantly in microbial community composition and relative abundance. For Epsilonproteobacteria, we found evidence of niche-specificity to hydrothermal vent environments. This taxon decreased in abundance by three orders of magnitude from the vent orifice to background water. Epsilonproteobacteria distribution followed a distance-decay relationship as vent-effluents mixed with the surrounding seawater. This study demonstrates strong habitat affinity of vent microorganisms on a metre scale with distinct environmental selection.
Original languageEnglish
Article number160829
Number of pages14
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • microorganisms


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