Molecular characterization of Bathymodiolus mussels and gill symbionts associated with chemosynthetic habitats from the U.S. Atlantic margin

By: , and 



Mussels of the genus Bathymodiolus are among the most widespread colonizers of hydrothermal vent and cold seep environments, sustained by endosymbiosis with chemosynthetic bacteria. Presumed species of Bathymodiolus are abundant at newly discovered cold seeps on the Mid-Atlantic continental slope, however morphological taxonomy is challenging, and their phylogenetic affinities remain unestablished. Here we used mitochondrial sequence to classify species found at three seep sites (Baltimore Canyon seep (BCS; ~400m); Norfolk Canyon seep (NCS; ~1520m); and Chincoteague Island seep (CTS; ~1000m)). Mitochondrial COI (N = 162) and ND4 (N = 39) data suggest that Bathymodiolus childressi predominates at these sites, although single B. mauritanicus and B. heckerae individuals were detected. As previous work had suggested that methanotrophic and thiotrophic interactions can both occur at a site, and within an individual mussel, we investigated the symbiont communities in gill tissues of a subset of mussels from BCS and NCS. We constructed metabarcode libraries with four different primer sets spanning the 16S gene. A methanotrophic phylotype dominated all gill microbial samples from BCS, but sulfur-oxidizing Campylobacterota were represented by a notable minority of sequences from NCS. The methanotroph phylotype shared a clade with globally distributed Bathymodiolus spp. symbionts from methane seeps and hydrothermal vents. Two distinct Campylobacterota phylotypes were prevalent in NCS samples, one of which shares a clade with Campylobacterota associated with B. childressi from the Gulf of Mexico and the other with Campylobacterota associated with other deep-sea fauna. Variation in chemosynthetic symbiont communities among sites and individuals has important ecological and geochemical implications and suggests shifting reliance on methanotrophy. Continued characterization of symbionts from cold seeps will provide a greater understanding of the ecology of these unique environments as well and their geochemical footprint in elemental cycling and energy flux.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Molecular characterization of Bathymodiolus mussels and gill symbionts associated with chemosynthetic habitats from the U.S. Atlantic margin
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0211616
Volume 14
Issue 3
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Public Library of Science
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description 28 p.
Country United States
State Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table