Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Limnology and Oceanography
Marine cable bacteria (Candidatus Electrothrix) and large colorless sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (e.g., Beggiatoaceae) are widespread thiotrophs in coastal environments but may exert different influences on biogeochemical cycling. Yet, the factors governing their niche partitioning remain poorly understood. To map their distribution and evaluate their growth constraints in a natural setting, we examined surface sediments across seasons at two sites with contrasting levels of seasonal oxygen depletion in Chesapeake Bay using microscopy coupled with 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and biogeochemical characterization. We found that cable bacteria, dominated by a single phylotype closely affiliated to Candidatus Electrothrix communis, flourished during winter and spring at a central channel site which experiences summer anoxia. Here, cable bacteria density was positively correlated with surface sediment chlorophyll, a proxy of phytodetritus sedimentation. Cable bacteria were also present with a lower areal density at an adjacent shoal site which supports bioturbating macrofauna. Beggiatoaceae were more abundant at this site, where their biomass was positively correlated with sediment respiration, but additionally potentially inhibited by sulfide accumulation which was evident during one summer. A springtime phytodetritus sedimentation event was associated with a proliferation of Beggiatoaceae and multiple Candidatus Electrothrix phylotypes, with cable bacteria reaching 1000 m length cm−2. These observations indicate the potential impact of a spring bloom in driving a hot moment of cryptic sulfur cycling. Our results suggest complex interactions between benthic thiotroph populations, with bioturbation and seasonal oscillations in bottom water dissolved oxygen, sediment sulfide, and organic matter influx as important drivers of their distribution.
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Malkin, Sairah Y.; Liau, Pinky; Kim, Carol; Hantsoo, Kalev G.; Gomes, Maya L.; and Song, Bongkeun, Contrasting controls on seasonal and spatial distribution of marine cable bacteria (Candidatus Electrothrix) and Beggiatoaceae in seasonally hypoxic Chesapeake Bay (2022). Limnology and Oceanography.