Gulf of Mexico blue hole harbors high levels of novel microbial lineages

Interational Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME) Journal
By: , and 



Exploration of oxygen-depleted marine environments has consistently revealed novel microbial taxa and metabolic capabilities that expand our understanding of microbial evolution and ecology. Marine blue holes are shallow karst formations characterized by low oxygen and high organic matter content. They are logistically challenging to sample, and thus our understanding of their biogeochemistry and microbial ecology is limited. We present a metagenomic and geochemical characterization of Amberjack Hole on the Florida continental shelf (Gulf of Mexico). Dissolved oxygen became depleted at the hole’s rim (32 m water depth), remained low but detectable in an intermediate hypoxic zone (40–75 m), and then increased to a secondary peak before falling below detection in the bottom layer (80–110 m), concomitant with increases in nutrients, dissolved iron, and a series of sequentially more reduced sulfur species. Microbial communities in the bottom layer contained heretofore undocumented levels of the recently discovered phylum Woesearchaeota (up to 58% of the community), along with lineages in the bacterial Candidate Phyla Radiation (CPR). Thirty-one high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) showed extensive biochemical capabilities for sulfur and nitrogen cycling, as well as for resisting and respiring arsenic. One uncharacterized gene associated with a CPR lineage differentiated hypoxic from anoxic zone communities. Overall, microbial communities and geochemical profiles were stable across two sampling dates in the spring and fall of 2019. The blue hole habitat is a natural marine laboratory that provides opportunities for sampling taxa with under-characterized but potentially important roles in redox-stratified microbial processes.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Gulf of Mexico blue hole harbors high levels of novel microbial lineages
Series title Interational Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME) Journal
DOI 10.1038/s41396-021-00917-x
Volume 15
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 17 p.
First page 2206
Last page 2232
Other Geospatial Gulf of Mexico
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