Dimorphism in methane seep-dwelling ecotypes of the largest known bacteria

Jake V. Bailey, Verena Salman, Gregory W. Rouse, Heide N. Schulz-Vogt, Lisa A. Levin, Victoria J. Orphan

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18 Scopus citations


We present evidence for a dimorphic life cycle in the vacuolate sulfide-oxidizing bacteria that appears to involve the attachment of a spherical Thiomargarita-like cell to the exteriors of invertebrate integuments and other benthic substrates at methane seeps. The attached cell elongates to produce a stalk-like form before budding off spherical daughter cells resembling free-living Thiomargarita that are abundant in surrounding sulfidic seep sediments. The relationship between the attached parent cell and free-living daughter cell is reminiscent of the dimorphic life modes of the prosthecate Alphaproteobacteria, but on a grand scale, with individual elongate cells reaching nearly a millimeter in length. Abundant growth of attached Thiomargarita-like bacteria on the integuments of gastropods and other seep fauna provides not only a novel ecological niche for these giant bacteria, but also for animals that may benefit from epibiont colonization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1926-1935
Number of pages10
JournalISME Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

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    Bailey, J. V., Salman, V., Rouse, G. W., Schulz-Vogt, H. N., Levin, L. A., & Orphan, V. J. (2011). Dimorphism in methane seep-dwelling ecotypes of the largest known bacteria. ISME Journal, 5(12), 1926-1935. https://doi.org/10.1038/ismej.2011.66