Low archaeal diversity linked to subseafloor geochemical processes at the Lost City Hydrothermal Field, Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Environ Microbiol. 2004 Oct;6(10):1086-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2004.00650.x.


The recently discovered Lost City Hydrothermal Field (LCHF) represents a new type of submarine hydrothermal system driven primarily by exothermic serpentinization reactions in ultramafic oceanic crust. Highly reducing, alkaline hydrothermal environments at the LCHF produce considerable quantities of hydrogen, methane and organic molecules through chemo- and biosynthetic reactions. Here, we report the first analyses of microbial communities inhabiting carbonate chimneys awash in warm, high pH fluids at the LCHF and the predominance of a single group of methane-metabolizing Archaea. The predominant phylotype, related to the Methanosarcinales, formed tens of micrometre-thick biofilms in regions adjacent to hydrothermal flow. Exterior portions of active structures harboured a diverse microbial community composed primarily of filamentous Eubacteria that resembled sulphide-oxidizing species. Inactive samples, away from regions of hydrothermal flow, contained phylotypes related to pelagic microorganisms. The abundance of organisms linked to the volatile chemistry at the LCHF hints that similar metabolic processes may operate in the subseafloor. These results expand the range of known geological settings that support biological activity to include submarine hydrothermal systems that are not dependent upon magmatic heat sources.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaea / metabolism
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Base Sequence
  • Biofilms*
  • Carbonates
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • DNA Primers
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Water Microbiology*


  • Carbonates
  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Methane

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AY299515
  • GENBANK/AY299516
  • GENBANK/AY505046
  • GENBANK/AY505047
  • GENBANK/AY505048
  • GENBANK/AY505049
  • GENBANK/AY505050
  • GENBANK/AY505051
  • GENBANK/AY505052
  • GENBANK/AY505053
  • GENBANK/AY505054