About this Research Topic
Hydrothermally influenced microbial habitats and communities represent a much wider spectrum of geological setting, chemical in-situ regimes, and biotic community than the classical examples from basalt-hosted black smoker chimneys at active mid-ocean spreading centers. Hydrothermal vent ecosystems now include hydrothermally heated and chemically altered sediments, microbiota fueled by serpentinization reactions, and low-temperature vents with unusual menus of electron donors. Novel marine provinces and hydrothermal areas are being charted and explored, such as new hydrothermal vent systems in the Arctic, around Antarctica, in the Western Pacific and in the Indian Ocean. Novel environmental gradients and niches provide habitats for unusual or unprecedented microorganisms and microbial ecosystems. The discovery of novel extremophiles such as Aciduliprofundum and the Nanoarchaeota underscores that hydrothermal vent microbial communities can no longer be characterized as assemblages of only “typical” sulfur oxidizers, methanogens and heterotrophs. Different stages of hydrothermal activity, from early onset to peak activity, gradual decline, and persistence of cold and fossil vent sites, correspond to different colonization waves by microorganisms as well as megafauna. This research topic will continue to stretch the limits of hydrothermal vent microbiology, and also provide a forum for the chemical and microbial linkages of hydrothermal vents to the ocean water column and the ocean crust or sedimentary subsurface.
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