Siboglinids were sampled from four mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cádiz (El Cid MV, Bonjardim MV, Al Gacel MV, and Anastasya MV). These invertebrates are characteristic to cold seeps and are known to host chemosynthetic endosymbionts in a dedicated trophosome organ. However, little is known about their tube as a potential niche for other microorganisms. Analyses by scanning and transmission electron microscopy showed dense biofilms on the tube in Al Gacel MV and Anastasya MV specimens by prokaryotic cells. Methanotrophic bacteria were the most abundant forming these biofilms as further supported by 16S rRNA sequence analysis. Furthermore, elemental analyses with electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy point to the mineralization and silicification of the tube, most likely induced by the microbial metabolisms. Bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA sequence libraries revealed abundant microorganisms related to these siboglinid specimens and certain variations in microbial communities among samples. Thus, the tube remarkably increases the microbial biomass related to the worms and provides an additional microbial niche in deep-sea ecosystems.
Keywords: SEM; Siboglinidae; TEM; biomineralization; chemosynthesis; cold seeps.