The microbiology of deep-sea hydrothermal vent plumes: Ecological and biogeographic linkages to seafloor and water column habitats

Gregory J. Dick, Karthik Anantharaman, Brett J. Baker, Meng Li, Daniel C. Reed, Cody S. Sheik

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Hydrothermal plumes are an important yet understudied component of deep-sea vent microbial ecosystems. The significance of plume microbial processes can be appreciated from three perspectives: (1) mediation of plume biogeochemistry, (2) dispersal of seafloor hydrothermal vent microbes between vents sites, (3) as natural laboratories for understanding the ecology, physiology, and function of microbial groups that are distributed throughout the pelagic deep sea. Plume microbiology has been largely neglected in recent years, especially relative to the extensive research conducted on seafloor and subseafloor systems. Rapidly advancing technologies for investigating microbial communities provide new motivation and opportunities to characterize this important microbial habitat. Here we briefly highlight microbial contributions to plume and broader ocean (bio)geochemistry and review recent work to illustrate the ecological and biogeographic linkages between plumes, seafloor vent habitats, and other marine habitats such as oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), cold seeps, and oil spills. 16S rRNA gene surveys and metagenomic/-transcriptomic data from plumes point to dominant microbial populations, genes, and functions that are also operative in OMZs (SUP05, ammonia-oxidizing Archaea, and SAR324 Deltaproteobacteria) and hydrocarbon-rich environments (methanotrophs). Plume microbial communities are distinct from those on the seafloor or in the subsurface but contain some signatures of these habitats, consistent with the notion that plumes are potential vectors for dispersal of microorganisms between seafloor vent sites. Finally, we put forward three pressing questions for the future of deep-sea hydrothermal plume research and consider interactions between vents and oceans on global scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2013


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Biogeography
  • Chemoautotroph
  • Chemosynthesis
  • Deep-sea
  • Hydrothermal
  • Vent


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