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Conspicuous Smooth and White Egg-Shaped Sulfur Structures on a Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Formed by Sulfide-Oxidizing Bacteria

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  • Marit R van Erk, Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology
  • ,
  • Viola Krukenberg, Montana State University
  • ,
  • Pia Bomholt Jensen
  • Sten Littmann, Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology
  • ,
  • Dirk de Beer, Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology

Conspicuous egg-shaped, white, and smooth structures were observed at a hydrothermal vent site in the Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California. The gelatinous structures decomposed within hours after sampling. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and light microscopy showed that the structure consisted of filaments of less than 0.1 mm thickness, similar to those observed for "Candidatus Arcobacter sulfidicus." SEM-energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) showed that the filaments were sulfur rich. According to 16S rRNA gene amplicon and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analyses, Arcobacter, a sulfide oxidizer that is known to produce filamentous elemental sulfur, was among the dominant species in the structure and was likely responsible for its formation. Arcobacter normally produces woolly snowflake like structures in opposed gradients of sulfide and oxygen. In the laboratory, we observed sulfide consumption in the anoxic zone of the structure, suggesting an anaerobic conversion. The sulfide oxidation and decomposition of the structure in the laboratory may be explained by dissolution of the sulfur filaments by reaction with sulfide under formation of polysulfides.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

    Research areas

  • Arcobacter, Hydrothermal vent, Sulfide oxidation, Sulfur filaments

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