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Microbes, macrofauna, and methane: A novel seep community fueled by aerobic methanotrophy Public Deposited

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  • During the discovery and description of seven New Zealand methane seep sites, an infaunal assemblage dominated by ampharetid polychaetes was found in association with high seabed methane emission. This ampharetid-bed assemblage had a mean density of 57,000 ± 7800 macrofaunal individuals m⁻² and a maximum wet biomass of 274 g m⁻², both being among the greatest recorded from deep-sea methane seeps. We investigated these questions: Does the species assemblage present within these ampharetid beds form a distinct seep community on the New Zealand margin? and What type of chemoautotrophic microbes fuel this heterotrophic community? Unlike the other macro-infaunal assemblages, the ampharetid-bed assemblage composition was homogeneous, independent of location. Based on a mixing model of species-specific mass and isotopic composition, combined with published respiration measurements, we estimated that this community consumes 29–90 mmol C m⁻² d⁻¹ of methane-fueled biomass; this is > 290 times the carbon fixed by anaerobic methane oxidizers in these ampharetid beds. A fatty acid biomarker approach supported the finding that this community, unlike those previously known, consumes primarily aerobic methanotrophic bacteria. Due to the novel microbial fueling and high methane flux rates, New Zealand’s ampharetid beds provide a model system to study the influence of metazoan grazing on microbially mediated biogeochemical cycles, including those that involve greenhouse gas emissions.
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  • Thurber, A. R., Levin, L. A., Rowden, A. A., Sommer, S., Linke, P., & Kröger, K. (2013). Microbes, macrofauna, and methane: A novel seep community fueled by aerobic methanotrophy. Limnology and Oceanography, 58(5), 1640-1656. doi:10.4319/lo.2013.58.5.1640
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  • 58
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  • 5
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  • Funding was provided by the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Graduate Office, Michael M. Mullin Memorial Fellowship, and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Exploration Grants NA17RJ1231 and NA050AR417076, United States National Science Foundation Grants OCE- 0425317 and OCE-0826254, New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Capability Fund project CRFH073, and a University of California Academic Senate grant to L.A.L. and W. Gerwick. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany (grants 03Go600D and 03Go191A) provided R/V Sonne and additional grants for geochemical work.
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