Deep-Sea Microbes


UD study looks at life inside and outside of seafloor hydrocarbon seeps.

Microbial cells are found in abundance in marine sediments beneath the ocean and make up a significant amount of the total microbial biomass on the planet. Microbes found deeper in the ocean, such as in hydrocarbon seeps, are usually believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy, where the further down a microbe is found, the less energy it has available.

A new study published out of a collaboration with the University of Delaware and ExxonMobil Research and Engineering shows that perhaps the microbial communities found deeper in the seafloor sediments in and around hydrocarbon seepage sites have more energy available and higher population turnover rates than previously thought.

Using sediment samples collected by ExxonMobil researchers, UD professor Jennifer Biddle and her lab group — including Rui Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher who is the first author on the paper; Kristin Yoshimura, who received her doctorate from UD; and Glenn Christman, a bioinformatician — worked on a study in collaboration with Zara Summers, an ExxonMobil microbiologist. The study, recently published in Scientific Reports, looks at how microbial dynamics are influenced by hydrocarbon seepage sites in the Gulf of Mexico.

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