The diversity and abundance of bacteria inhabiting seafloor lavas positively correlate with rock alteration

Cara M. Santelli, Virginia P. Edgcomb, Wolfgang Bach, Katrina J. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Young, basaltic ocean crust exposed near mid-ocean ridge spreading centers present a spatially extensive environment that may be exploited by epi- and endolithic microbes in the deep sea. Geochemical energy released during basalt alteration reactions can theoretically support chemosynthesis, contributing to a trophic base for the ocean crust biome. To examine associations between endolithic microorganisms and basalt alteration processes, we compare the phylogenetic diversity, abundance and community structure of bacteria existing in several young, seafloor lavas from the East Pacific Rise at ∼9°N that are variably affected by oxidative seawater alteration. The results of 16S rRNA gene analyses and real-time, quantitative polymerase chain reaction measurements show that the abundance of prokaryotic communities, dominated by the bacterial domain, positively correlates with the extent of rock alteration - the oldest, most altered basalt harbours the greatest microbial biomass. The bacterial community overlap, structure and species richness relative to alteration state is less explicit, but broadly corresponds to sample characteristics (type of alteration products and general alteration state). Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the basalt biome may contribute to the geochemical cycling of Fe, S, Mn, C and N in the deep sea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-98
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'The diversity and abundance of bacteria inhabiting seafloor lavas positively correlate with rock alteration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this