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Image : Abundance, diversity, and activity of anaerobic propane- and butane-oxidizing microorganisms at a hydrothermal hydrocarbon seep

At locations where hydrothermal fluids seep out of the sediment in Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California, extensive mats composed of filamentous sulfur-oxidizing bacteria of the genus Beggiatoa and other microbes develop on top of the sediment. These organisms utilize reduced sulfur-compounds contained in the hydrothermal fluids and oxygen and/or nitrate contained in the entrained seawater. Below these mats, anaerobic microbes utilize organic matter either produced by these microbes or through thermal alteration of the organic rich sediments. In other locations, hydrocarbons, including ethane, propane, and butane, formed deep-down in the sediments under high pressure and temperatures are seeping out of the sediment, supporting a diverse, yet poorly characterized suit of microbes specialized in degrading these compounds anaerobically.


Last updated: March 13, 2012

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