Sylva Sean P.

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Sean P.

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  • Preprint
    Geochemistry of hydrothermal fluids from the PACMANUS, Northeast Pual and Vienna Woods hydrothermal fields, Manus Basin, Papua New Guinea
    ( 2010-10-29) Reeves, Eoghan P. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Saccocia, Peter J. ; Bach, Wolfgang ; Craddock, Paul R. ; Shanks, Wayne C. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Walsh, Emily ; Pichler, Thomas ; Rosner, Martin
    Processes controlling the composition of seafloor hydrothermal fluids in silicic back-arc or neararc crustal settings remain poorly constrained despite growing evidence for extensive magmatichydrothermal activity in such environments. We conducted a survey of vent fluid compositions from two contrasting sites in the Manus back-arc basin, Papua New Guinea, to examine the influence of variations in host rock composition and magmatic inputs (both a function of arc proximity) on hydrothermal fluid chemistry. Fluid samples were collected from felsic-hosted hydrothermal vent fields located on Pual Ridge (PACMANUS and Northeast (NE) Pual) near the active New Britain Arc and a basalt-hosted vent field (Vienna Woods) located farther from the arc on the Manus Spreading Center. Vienna Woods fluids were characterized by relatively uniform endmember temperatures (273–285°C) and major element compositions, low dissolved CO2 concentrations (4.4mmol/kg) and high measured pH (4.2–4.9 at 25°C). Temperatures and compositions were highly variable at PACMANUS/NE Pual and a large, newly discovered vent area (Fenway) was observed to be vigorously venting boiling (358°C) fluid. All PACMANUS fluids are characterized by negative δDH2O values, in contrast to positive values at Vienna Woods, suggesting substantial magmatic water input to circulating fluids at Pual Ridge. Low measured pH (25°C) values (~2.6 to 2.7), high endmember CO2 (up to 274 mmol/kg) and negative δ34SH2S values (down to -2.7‰) in some vent fluids are also consistent with degassing of acid-volatile species from evolved magma. Dissolved CO2 at PACMANUS is more enriched in 13C (-4.1‰ to -2.3‰) than Vienna Woods (-5.2‰ to -5.7‰), suggesting a contribution of slab-derived carbon. The mobile elements (e.g. Li, K, Rb, Cs and B) are also greatly enriched in PACMANUS fluids reflecting increased abundances in the crust there relative to the Manus Spreading Center. Variations in alkali and dissolved gas abundances with Cl at PACMANUS and NE Pual suggest that phase separation has affected fluid chemistry despite the low temperatures of many vents. In further contrast to Vienna Woods, substantial modification of PACMANUS/NE Pual fluids has taken place as a result of seawater of seawater ingress into the upflow zone. Consistently high measured Mg concentrations, trends of increasingly non-conservative SO4 behavior, decreasing endmember Ca/Cl and Sr/Cl ratios with increased Mg indicate extensive subsurface anhydrite deposition is occurring as a result of subsurface seawater entrainment. Decreased pH and endmember Fe/Mn ratios in higher Mg fluids indicate that the associated mixing/cooling gives rise to sulfide deposition and secondary acidity production. Several low temperature (≤80°C) fluids at PACMANUS/NE Pual also show evidence for anhydrite dissolution and water-rock interaction (fixation of B) subsequent to seawater entrainment. Hence, the evolution of fluid compositions at Pual Ridge reflects the cumulative effects of water/rock interaction, admixing and reaction of fluids exsolved from silicic magma, phase separation/segregation and seawater ingress into upflow zones.
  • Preprint
    Hydrogen isotope exchange between n-alkanes and water under hydrothermal conditions
    ( 2011-03-10) Reeves, Eoghan P. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Sylva, Sean P.
    To investigate the extent of hydrogen isotope (2H and 1H) exchange between hydrocarbons and water under hydrothermal conditions, we performed experiments heating C1–C5 n-alkanes in aqueous solutions of varying initial 2H/1H ratios in the presence of a pyrite-pyrrhotite-magnetite redox buffer at 323ºC and 35–36MPa. Extensive and reversible incorporation of water-derived hydrogen into C2–C5 n-alkanes was observed on timescales of months. In contrast, comparatively minor exchange was observed for CH4. Isotopic exchange is facilitated by reversible equilibration of n-alkanes and their corresponding n-alkenes with H2 derived from the disproportionation of water. Rates of δ2H variation in C3+ n-alkanes decreased with time, a trend that is consistent with an asymptotic approach to steady-state isotopic compositions regulated by alkane-water isotopic equilibrium. Substantially slower δ2H variation was observed for ethane relative to C3–C5 n-alkanes, suggesting that the greater stability of C3+ alkenes and isomerization reactions may dramatically enhance rates of 2H/1H exchange in C3+ n-alkanes. Thus, in reducing aqueous environments, reversible reaction of alkenes and their corresponding alkanes facilitates rapid 2H/1H exchange between alkyl- and water-bound hydrogen on relatively short geological timescales at elevated temperatures and pressures. The proximity of some thermogenic and purported abiogenic alkane δ2H values to those predicted for equilibrium 2H/1H fractionation with ambient water suggests that this process may regulate the δ2H signatures of some naturally occurring hydrocarbons.
  • Article
    Shallow ponds are heterogeneous habitats within a temperate salt marsh ecosystem
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2017-06-15) Spivak, Amanda C. ; Gosselin, Kelsey M. ; Howard, Evan M. ; Mariotti, Giulio ; Forbrich, Inke ; Stanley, Rachel H. R. ; Sylva, Sean P.
    Integrating spatial heterogeneity into assessments of salt marsh biogeochemistry is becoming increasingly important because disturbances that reduce plant productivity and soil drainage may contribute to an expansion of shallow ponds. These permanently inundated and sometimes prominent landscape features can exist for decades, yet little is known about pond biogeochemistry or their role in marsh ecosystem functioning. We characterized three ponds in a temperate salt marsh (MA, USA) over alternating periods of tidal isolation and flushing, during summer and fall, by evaluating the composition of plant communities and organic matter pools and measuring surface water oxygen, temperature, and conductivity. The ponds were located in the high marsh and had similar depths, temperatures, and salinities. Despite this, they had different levels of suspended particulate, dissolved, and sediment organic matter and abundances of phytoplankton, macroalgae, and Ruppia maritima. Differences in plant communities were reflected in pond metabolism rates, which ranged from autotrophic to heterotrophic. Integrating ponds into landcover-based estimates of marsh metabolism resulted in slower rates of net production (−8.1 ± 0.3 to −15.7 ± 0.9%) and respiration (−2.9 ± 0.5 to −10.0 ± 0.4%), compared to rates based on emergent grasses alone. Seasonality had a greater effect on pond water chemistry, organic matter pools, and algal abundances than tidal connectivity. Alternating stretches of tidal isolation and flushing did not affect pond salinities or algal communities, suggesting that exchange between ponds and nearby creeks was limited. Overall, we found that ponds are heterogeneous habitats and future expansion could reduce landscape connectivity and the ability of marshes to capture and store carbon.
  • Article
    Compositional discrimination of decompression and decomposition gas bubbles in bycaught seals and dolphins
    (Public Library of Science, 2013-12-19) Bernaldo de Quirós, Yara ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Greer, William ; Niemeyer, Misty E. ; Bogomolni, Andrea L. ; Moore, Michael J.
    Gas bubbles in marine mammals entangled and drowned in gillnets have been previously described by computed tomography, gross examination and histopathology. The absence of bacteria or autolytic changes in the tissues of those animals suggested that the gas was produced peri- or post-mortem by a fast decompression, probably by quickly hauling animals entangled in the net at depth to the surface. Gas composition analysis and gas scoring are two new diagnostic tools available to distinguish gas embolisms from putrefaction gases. With this goal, these methods have been successfully applied to pathological studies of marine mammals. In this study, we characterized the flux and composition of the gas bubbles from bycaught marine mammals in anchored sink gillnets and bottom otter trawls. We compared these data with marine mammals stranded on Cape Cod, MA, USA. Fresh animals or with moderate decomposition (decomposition scores of 2 and 3) were prioritized. Results showed that bycaught animals presented with significantly higher gas scores than stranded animals. Gas composition analyses indicate that gas was formed by decompression, confirming the decompression hypothesis.
  • Preprint
    Diverse styles of submarine venting on the ultraslow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise
    ( 2010-06-24) German, Christopher R. ; Bowen, Andrew D. ; Coleman, Max ; Honig, D. L. ; Huber, Julie A. ; Jakuba, Michael V. ; Kinsey, James C. ; Kurz, Mark D. ; Leroy, S. ; McDermott, Jill M. ; Mercier de Lepinay, B. ; Nakamura, Ko-ichi ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Smith, J. L. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Van Dover, Cindy L. ; Whitcomb, Louis L. ; Yoerger, Dana R.
    Thirty years after the first discovery of high-temperature submarine venting, the vast majority of the global Mid Ocean Ridge remains unexplored for hydrothermal activity. Of particular interest are the world’s ultra-slow spreading ridges which were the last to be demonstrated to host high-temperature venting, but may host systems particularly relevant to pre-biotic chemistry and the origins of life. Here we report first evidence for diverse and very deep hydrothermal vents along the ~110 km long, ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise. Our data indicate that the Mid- Cayman Rise hosts at least three discrete hydrothermal sites, each representing a different type of water-rock interaction, including both mafic and ultra-mafic systems and, at ~5000 m, the deepest known hydrothermal vent. Although submarine hydrothermal circulation, in which seawater percolates through and reacts with host lithologies, occurs on all mid-ocean ridges, the diversity of vent-types identified here and their relative geographic isolation make the Mid-Cayman Rise unique in the oceans. These new sites offer prospects for: an expanded range of vent-fluid compositions; varieties of abiotic organic chemical synthesis and extremophile microorganisms; and unparalleled faunal biodiversity - all in close proximity.
  • Article
    Abiotic redox reactions in hydrothermal mixing zones: decreased energy availability for the subsurface biosphere
    (National Academy of Sciences, 2020-08-12) McDermott, Jill M. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Ono, Shuhei ; German, Christopher R. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S.
    Subseafloor mixing of high-temperature hot-spring fluids with cold seawater creates intermediate-temperature diffuse fluids that are replete with potential chemical energy. This energy can be harnessed by a chemosynthetic biosphere that permeates hydrothermal regions on Earth. Shifts in the abundance of redox-reactive species in diffuse fluids are often interpreted to reflect the direct influence of subseafloor microbial activity on fluid geochemical budgets. Here, we examine hydrothermal fluids venting at 44 to 149 °C at the Piccard hydrothermal field that span the canonical 122 °C limit to life, and thus provide a rare opportunity to study the transition between habitable and uninhabitable environments. In contrast with previous studies, we show that hydrocarbons are contributed by biomass pyrolysis, while abiotic sulfate (SO42−) reduction produces large depletions in H2. The latter process consumes energy that could otherwise support key metabolic strategies employed by the subseafloor biosphere. Available Gibbs free energy is reduced by 71 to 86% across the habitable temperature range for both hydrogenotrophic SO42− reduction to hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction to methane (CH4). The abiotic H2 sink we identify has implications for the productivity of subseafloor microbial ecosystems and is an important process to consider within models of H2 production and consumption in young oceanic crust.
  • Article
    Production of two highly abundant 2-methyl-branched fatty acids by blooms of the globally significant marine cyanobacteria Trichodesmium erythraeum
    (American Chemical Society, 2021-08-26) Gosselin, Kelsey M. ; Nelson, Robert K. ; Spivak, Amanda C. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Van Mooy, Benjamin A. S. ; Aeppli, Christoph ; Sharpless, Charles M. ; O’Neil, Gregory W. ; Arrington, Eleanor C. ; Reddy, Christopher M. ; Valentine, David L.
    The bloom-forming cyanobacteria Trichodesmium contribute up to 30% to the total fixed nitrogen in the global oceans and thereby drive substantial productivity. On an expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, we observed and sampled surface slicks, some of which included dense blooms of Trichodesmium erythraeum. These bloom samples contained abundant and atypical free fatty acids, identified here as 2-methyldecanoic acid and 2-methyldodecanoic acid. The high abundance and unusual branching pattern of these compounds suggest that they may play a specific role in this globally important organism.
  • Article
    Rapid analysis of 13C in plant-wax n-alkanes for reconstruction of terrestrial vegetation signals from aquatic sediments
    (American Geophysical Union, 2004-10-15) McDuffee, Kelsey E. ; Eglinton, Timothy I. ; Sessions, Alex L. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Wagner, Thomas ; Hayes, John M.
    Long-chain, odd-carbon-numbered C25 to C35 n-alkanes are characteristic components of epicuticular waxes produced by terrestrial higher plants. They are delivered to aquatic systems via eolian and fluvial transport and are preserved in underlying sediments. The isotopic compositions of these products can serve as records of past vegetation. We have developed a rapid method for stable carbon isotopic analyses of total plant-wax n-alkanes using a novel, moving-wire system coupled to an isotope-ratio mass spectrometer (MW-irMS). The n-alkane fractions are prepared from sediment samples by (1) saponification and extraction with organic solvents, (2) chromatographic separation using silica gel, (3) isolation of straight-chain carbon skeletons using a zeolite molecular sieve, and (4) oxidation and removal of unsaturated hydrocarbons with RuO4. Short-chain n-alkanes of nonvascular plant origin (
  • Article
    Comparative analysis of methane-oxidizing archaea and sulfate-reducing bacteria in anoxic marine sediments
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2001-04) Orphan, Victoria J. ; Hinrichs, Kai-Uwe ; Ussler, William ; Paull, Charles K. ; Taylor, L. T. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Hayes, John M. ; DeLong, Edward F.
    The oxidation of methane in anoxic marine sediments is thought to be mediated by a consortium of methane-consuming archaea and sulfate-reducing bacteria. In this study, we compared results of rRNA gene (rDNA) surveys and lipid analyses of archaea and bacteria associated with methane seep sediments from several different sites on the Californian continental margin. Two distinct archaeal lineages (ANME-1 and ANME-2), peripherally related to the order Methanosarcinales, were consistently associated with methane seep marine sediments. The same sediments contained abundant 13C-depleted archaeal lipids, indicating that one or both of these archaeal groups are members of anaerobic methane-oxidizing consortia. 13C-depleted lipids and the signature 16S rDNAs for these archaeal groups were absent in nearby control sediments. Concurrent surveys of bacterial rDNAs revealed a predominance of delta -proteobacteria, in particular, close relatives of Desulfosarcina variabilis. Biomarker analyses of the same sediments showed bacterial fatty acids with strong 13C depletion that are likely products of these sulfate-reducing bacteria. Consistent with these observations, whole-cell fluorescent in situ hybridization revealed aggregations of ANME-2 archaea and sulfate-reducing Desulfosarcina and Desulfococcus species. Additionally, the presence of abundant 13C-depleted ether lipids, presumed to be of bacterial origin but unrelated to ether lipids of members of the order Desulfosarcinales, suggests the participation of additional bacterial groups in the methane-oxidizing process. Although the Desulfosarcinales and ANME-2 consortia appear to participate in the anaerobic oxidation of methane in marine sediments, our data suggest that other bacteria and archaea are also involved in methane oxidation in these environments.
  • Preprint
    Dissolved organic carbon compounds in deep-sea hydrothermal vent fluids from the East Pacific Rise at 9°50′N
    ( 2018-08) Longnecker, Krista ; Sievert, Stefan M. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Kujawinski, Elizabeth B.
    Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are unique ecosystems that may release chemically distinct dissolved organic matter to the deep ocean. Here, we describe the composition and concentrations of polar dissolved organic compounds observed in low and high temperature hydrothermal vent fluids at 9°50’N on the East Pacific Rise. The concentration of dissolved organic carbon was 46 μM in the low temperature hydrothermal fluids and 14 μM in the high temperature hydrothermal fluids. In the low temperature vent fluids, quantifiable dissolved organic compounds were dominated by water-soluble vitamins and amino acids. Derivatives of benzoic acid and the organic sulfur compound 2,3-dihydroxypropane-1-sulfonate (DHPS) were also present in low and high temperature hydrothermal fluids. The low temperature vent fluids contain organic compounds that are central to biological processes, suggesting that they are a by-product of biological activity in the subseafloor. These compounds may fuel heterotrophic and other metabolic processes at deep-sea hydrothermal vents and beyond.
  • Article
    Genus-specific carbon fixation activity measurements reveal distinct responses to oxygen among hydrothermal vent campylobacteria
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2022-01-25) McNichol, Jesse C. ; Dyksma, Stefan ; Mussmann, Marc ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Sievert, Stefan M.
    Molecular surveys of low temperature deep-sea hydrothermal vent fluids have shown that Campylobacteria (previously Epsilonproteobacteria) often dominate the microbial community and that three genera, Arcobacter, Sulfurimonas, and Sulfurovum, frequently coexist. In this study, we used replicated radiocarbon incubations of deep-sea hydrothermal fluids to investigate activity of each genus under three experimental conditions. To quantify genus-specific radiocarbon incorporation, we used newly designed oligonucleotide probes for Arcobacter, Sulfurimonas, and Sulfurovum to quantify their activity using catalyzed-reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH) combined with fluorescence-activated cell sorting. All three genera actively fixed CO2 in short-term (∼ 20 h) incubations, but responded differently to the additions of nitrate and oxygen. Oxygen additions had the largest effect on community composition, and caused a pronounced shift in community composition at the amplicon sequence variant (ASV) level after only 20 h of incubation. The effect of oxygen on carbon fixation rates appeared to depend on the initial starting community. The presented results support the hypothesis that these chemoautotrophic genera possess functionally redundant core metabolic capabilities, but also reveal finer-scale differences in growth likely reflecting adaptation of physiologically-distinct phylotypes to varying oxygen concentrations in situ. Overall, our study provides new insights into how oxygen controls community composition and total chemoautotrophic activity, and underscores how quickly deep-sea vent microbial communities respond to disturbances.
  • Article
    Microbial diversity of hydrothermal sediments in the Guaymas Basin : evidence for anaerobic methanotrophic communities
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2002-04) Teske, Andreas ; Hinrichs, Kai-Uwe ; Edgcomb, Virginia P. ; de Vera Gomez, Alvin ; Kysela, David ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Sogin, Mitchell L. ; Jannasch, Holger W.
    Microbial communities in hydrothermally active sediments of the Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California, Mexico) were studied by using 16S rRNA sequencing and carbon isotopic analysis of archaeal and bacterial lipids. The Guaymas sediments harbored uncultured euryarchaeota of two distinct phylogenetic lineages within the anaerobic methane oxidation 1 (ANME-1) group, ANME-1a and ANME-1b, and of the ANME-2c lineage within the Methanosarcinales, both previously assigned to the methanotrophic archaea. The archaeal lipids in the Guaymas Basin sediments included archaeol, diagnostic for nonthermophilic euryarchaeota, and sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol, with the latter compound being particularly abundant in cultured members of the Methanosarcinales. The concentrations of these compounds were among the highest observed so far in studies of methane seep environments. The δ-13C values of these lipids (δ-13C = -89 to -58%) indicate an origin from anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. This molecular-isotopic signature was found not only in samples that yielded predominantly ANME-2 clones but also in samples that yielded exclusively ANME-1 clones. ANME-1 archaea therefore remain strong candidates for mediation of the anaerobic oxidation of methane. Based on 16S rRNA data, the Guaymas sediments harbor phylogenetically diverse bacterial populations, which show considerable overlap with bacterial populations of geothermal habitats and natural or anthropogenic hydrocarbon-rich sites. Consistent with earlier observations, our combined evidence from bacterial phylogeny and molecular-isotopic data indicates an important role of some novel deeply branching bacteria in anaerobic methanotrophy. Anaerobic methane oxidation likely represents a significant and widely occurring process in the trophic ecology of methane-rich hydrothermal vents. This study stresses a high diversity among communities capable of anaerobic oxidation of methane.
  • Article
    Hydrologic controls of methane dynamics in Karst subterranean estuaries
    (American Geophysical Union, 2018-11-09) Brankovits, David ; Pohlman, John W. ; Ganju, Neil K. ; Iliffe, Thomas ; Lowell, Nick ; Roth, Erich ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Emmert, Jake ; Lapham, Laura L.
    Karst subterranean estuaries (KSEs) extend into carbonate platforms along 12% of all coastlines. A recent study has shown that microbial methane (CH4) consumption is an important component of the carbon cycle and food web dynamics within flooded caves that permeate KSEs. In this study, we obtained high‐resolution (~2.5‐day) temporal records of dissolved methane concentrations and its stable isotopic content (δ13C) to evaluate how regional meteorology and hydrology control methane dynamics in KSEs. Our records show that less methane was present in the anoxic fresh water during the wet season (4,361 ± 89 nM) than during the dry season (5,949 ± 132 nM), suggesting that the wet season hydrologic regime enhances mixing of methane and other constituents into the underlying brackish water. The δ13C of the methane (−38.1 ± 1.7‰) in the brackish water was consistently more 13C‐enriched than fresh water methane (−65.4 ± 0.4‰), implying persistent methane oxidation in the cave. Using a hydrologically based mass balance model, we calculate that methane consumption in the KSE was 21–28 mg CH4·m−2·year−1 during the 6‐month dry period, which equates to ~1.4 t of methane consumed within the 102‐ to 138‐km2 catchment basin for the cave. Unless wet season methane consumption is much greater, the magnitude of methane oxidized within KSEs is not likely to affect the global methane budget. However, our estimates constrain the contribution of a critical resource for this widely distributed subterranean ecosystem.
  • Article
    Salt marsh pond biogeochemistry changes hourly-to-yearly but does not scale with dimensions or geospatial position
    (American Geophysical Union, 2020-09-15) Spivak, Amanda C. ; Denmark, Alexander ; Gosselin, Kelsey M. ; Sylva, Sean P.
    Shallow ponds are expanding in many salt marshes with potential impacts on ecosystem functioning. Determining how pond characteristics change over time and scale with physical dimensions and other spatial predictors could facilitate incorporation of ponds into projections of ecosystem change. We evaluated scaling relationships across six differently sized ponds in three regions of the high marshes within the Plum Island Ecosystems‐Long Term Ecological Research site (MA, USA). We further characterized diel fluctuations in surface water chemistry in two ponds to understand short‐term processes that affect emergent properties (e.g., habitat suitability). Primary producers drove oxygen levels to supersaturation during the day, while nighttime respiration resulted in hypoxic to anoxic conditions. Diel swings in oxygen were mirrored by pH and resulted in successive shifts in redox‐sensitive metabolisms, as indicated by nitrate consumption at dusk followed by peaks in ammonium and then sulfide overnight. Abundances of macroalgae and Ruppia maritima correlated with whole‐pond oxygen metabolism rates, but not with surface area (SA), volume (V), or SA:V. Moreover, there were no clear patterns in primary producer abundances, surface water chemistry, or pond metabolism rates across marsh regions supplied by different tidal creeks or that differed in distance to upland borders or creekbanks. Comparisons with data from 2 years prior demonstrate that plant communities and biogeochemical processes are not in steady state. Factors contributing to variability between ponds and years are unclear but likely include infrequent tidal exchange. Temporal and spatial variability and the absence of scaling relationships complicate the integration of high marsh ponds into ecosystem biogeochemical models.
  • Article
    Subseafloor microbial communities in hydrogen-rich vent fluids from hydrothermal systems along the Mid-Cayman Rise
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2016-01-21) Reveillaud, Julie ; Reddington, Emily ; McDermott, Jill M. ; Algar, Christopher K. ; Meyer, Julie L. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; German, Christopher R. ; Huber, Julie A.
    Warm fluids emanating from hydrothermal vents can be used as windows into the rocky subseafloor habitat and its resident microbial community. Two new vent systems on the Mid-Cayman Rise each exhibits novel geologic settings and distinctively hydrogen-rich vent fluid compositions. We have determined and compared the chemistry, potential energy yielding reactions, abundance, community composition, diversity, and function of microbes in venting fluids from both sites: Piccard, the world's deepest vent site, hosted in mafic rocks; and Von Damm, an adjacent, ultramafic-influenced system. Von Damm hosted a wider diversity of lineages and metabolisms in comparison to Piccard, consistent with thermodynamic models that predict more numerous energy sources at ultramafic systems. There was little overlap in the phylotypes found at each site, although similar and dominant hydrogen-utilizing genera were present at both. Despite the differences in community structure, depth, geology, and fluid chemistry, energetic modelling and metagenomic analysis indicate near functional equivalence between Von Damm and Piccard, likely driven by the high hydrogen concentrations and elevated temperatures at both sites. Results are compared with hydrothermal sites worldwide to provide a global perspective on the distinctiveness of these newly discovered sites and the interplay among rocks, fluid composition and life in the subseafloor.
  • Article
    Physiological dynamics of chemosynthetic symbionts in hydrothermal vent snails
    (Springer Nature, 2020-07-02) Breusing, Corinna ; Mitchell, Jessica ; Delaney, Jennifer ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Girguis, Peter R. ; Beinart, Roxanne A.
    Symbioses between invertebrate animals and chemosynthetic bacteria form the basis of hydrothermal vent ecosystems worldwide. In the Lau Basin, deep-sea vent snails of the genus Alviniconcha associate with either Gammaproteobacteria (A. kojimai, A. strummeri) or Campylobacteria (A. boucheti) that use sulfide and/or hydrogen as energy sources. While the A. boucheti host–symbiont combination (holobiont) dominates at vents with higher concentrations of sulfide and hydrogen, the A. kojimai and A. strummeri holobionts are more abundant at sites with lower concentrations of these reductants. We posit that adaptive differences in symbiont physiology and gene regulation might influence the observed niche partitioning between host taxa. To test this hypothesis, we used high-pressure respirometers to measure symbiont metabolic rates and examine changes in gene expression among holobionts exposed to in situ concentrations of hydrogen (H2: ~25 µM) or hydrogen sulfide (H2S: ~120 µM). The campylobacterial symbiont exhibited the lowest rate of H2S oxidation but the highest rate of H2 oxidation, with fewer transcriptional changes and less carbon fixation relative to the gammaproteobacterial symbionts under each experimental condition. These data reveal potential physiological adaptations among symbiont types, which may account for the observed net differences in metabolic activity and contribute to the observed niche segregation among holobionts.
  • Article
    Primary productivity below the seafloor at deep-sea hot springs
    (National Academy of Sciences, 2018-06-11) McNichol, Jesse C. ; Stryhanyuk, Hryhoriy ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Thomas, François ; Musat, Niculina ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Sievert, Stefan M.
    The existence of a chemosynthetic subseafloor biosphere was immediately recognized when deep-sea hot springs were discovered in 1977. However, quantifying how much new carbon is fixed in this environment has remained elusive. In this study, we incubated natural subseafloor communities under in situ pressure/temperature and measured their chemosynthetic growth efficiency and metabolic rates. Combining these data with fluid flux and in situ chemical measurements, we derived empirical constraints on chemosynthetic activity in the natural environment. Our study shows subseafloor microorganisms are highly productive (up to 1.4 Tg C produced yearly), fast-growing (turning over every 17–41 hours), and physiologically diverse. These estimates place deep-sea hot springs in a quantitative framework and allow us to assess their importance for global biogeochemical cycles.
  • Article
    Geochemistry of fluids from Earth’s deepest ridge-crest hot-springs : Piccard hydrothermal field, Mid-Cayman Rise
    (Elsevier, 2018-02-13) McDermott, Jill M. ; Sylva, Sean P. ; Ono, Shuhei ; German, Christopher R. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S.
    Hosted in basaltic substrate on the ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise, the Piccard hydrothermal field is the deepest currently known seafloor hot-spring (4957–4987 m). Due to its great depth, the Piccard site is an excellent natural system for investigating the influence of extreme pressure on the formation of submarine vent fluids. To investigate the role of rock composition and deep circulation conditions on fluid chemistry, the abundance and isotopic composition of organic, inorganic, and dissolved volatile species in high temperature vent fluids at Piccard were examined in samples collected in 2012 and 2013. Fluids from the Beebe Vents and Beebe Woods black smokers vent at a maximum temperature of 398 °C at the seafloor, however several lines of evidence derived from inorganic chemistry (Cl, SiO2, Ca, Br, Fe, Cu, Mn) support fluid formation at much higher temperatures in the subsurface. These high temperatures, potentially in excess of 500 °C, are attainable due to the great depth of the system. Our data indicate that a single deep-rooted source fluid feeds high temperature vents across the entire Piccard field. High temperature Piccard fluid H2 abundances (19.9 mM) are even higher than those observed in many ultramafic-influenced systems, such as the Rainbow (16 mM) and the Von Damm hydrothermal fields (18.2 mM). In the case of Piccard, however, these extremely high H2 abundances can be generated from fluid-basalt reaction occurring at very high temperatures. Magmatic and thermogenic sources of carbon in the high temperature black smoker vents are described. Dissolved ΣCO2 is likely of magmatic origin, CH4 may originate from a combination of thermogenic sources and leaching of abiotic CH4 from mineral-hosted fluid inclusions, and CO abundances are at equilibrium with the water–gas shift reaction. Longer-chained n-alkanes (C2H6, C3H8, n-C4H10, i-C4H10) may derive from thermal alteration of dissolved and particulate organic carbon sourced from the original seawater source, entrainment of microbial ecosystems peripheral to high temperature venting, and/or abiotic mantle sources. Dissolved ΣHCOOH in the Beebe Woods fluid is consistent with thermodynamic equilibrium for abiotic production via ΣCO2 reduction with H2 at 354 °C measured temperature. A lack of ΣHCOOH in the relatively higher temperature 398 °C Beebe Vent fluids demonstrates the temperature sensitivity of this equilibrium. Abundant basaltic seafloor outcrops and the axial location of the vent field, along with multiple lines of geochemical evidence, support extremely high temperature fluid-rock reaction with mafic substrate as the dominant control on Piccard fluid chemistry. These results expand the known diversity of vent fluid composition, with implications for supporting microbiological life in both the modern and ancient ocean.
  • Preprint
    Incorporation of water-derived hydrogen into methane during artificial maturation of source rock under hydrothermal conditions
    (Elsevier, 2022-08-12) Wang, David T. ; Seewald, Jeffrey S. ; Reeves, Eoghan P. ; Ono, Shuhei ; Sylva, Sean P.
    To investigate the origin of Csingle bondH bonds in thermogenic methane (CH4), a solvent-extracted sample of organic-rich Eagle Ford shale was reacted with heavy water (D2O) under hydrothermal conditions (350 bar) in a flexible Au-TiO2 cell hydrothermal apparatus at a water-to-rock ratio of approximately 5:1. Temperature was increased from 200 to 350 °C over the course of one month and the concentrations of aqueous species and methane isotopologues were quantified as a function of time. In general, production of hydrogen, CO2, alkanes, and alkenes increased with time and temperature. Methane formed during the early stages of the experiment at 200 °C was primarily C1H4 with some CH3D. With progressively higher temperatures, increasing proportions of deuterated isotopologues were produced. Near the end of the experiment, the concentration of CD4 exceeded that of all other isotopologues combined. These results suggest that competition between rates of kerogen-water isotopic exchange and natural gas generation may govern the D/H ratio of thermogenic gases. Furthermore, hydrogenation of kerogen by water may be responsible for hydrocarbon yields in excess of those predicted by conventional models of source rock maturation in which hydrocarbon generation is limited by the amount of organically bonded hydrogen.