Mixing of meteoric and geothermal fluids supports hyperdiverse chemosynthetic hydrothermal communities


Daniel R. Colman, Melody R. Lindsay, Eric S. Boyd


Nature Communications


Little is known of how mixing of meteoric and geothermal fluids supports biodiversity in non-photosynthetic ecosystems. Here, we use metagenomic sequencing to investigate a chemosynthetic microbial community in a hot spring (SJ3) of Yellowstone National Park that exhibits geochemistry consistent with mixing of a reduced volcanic gas-influenced end member with an oxidized near-surface meteoric end member. SJ3 hosts an exceptionally diverse community with representatives from similar to 50% of known higher-order archaeal and bacterial lineages, including several divergent deep-branching lineages. A comparison of functional potential with other available chemosynthetic community metagenomes reveals similarly high diversity and functional potentials (i.e., incorporation of electron donors supplied by volcanic gases) in springs sourced by mixed fluids. Further, numerous closely related SJ3 populations harbor differentiated metabolisms that may function to minimize niche overlap, further increasing endemic diversity. We suggest that dynamic mixing of waters generated by subsurface and near-surface geological processes may play a key role in the generation and maintenance of chemosynthetic biodiversity in hydrothermal and other similar environments.



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