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Burkett, AM, Rathburn AE, Perez ME, Levin LA, Cha H, Rouse GW.  2015.  Phylogenetic placement of Cibicidoides wuellerstorfi (Schwager, 1866) from methane seeps and non-seep habitats on the Pacific margin. Geobiology. 13:44-52.   10.1111/gbi.12118   AbstractWebsite

Benthic foraminifera are among the most abundant groups found in deep-sea habitats, including methane seep environments. Unlike many groups, no endemic foraminiferal species have been reported from methane seeps, and to our knowledge, genetic data are currently sparse for Pacific deep-sea foraminifera. In an effort to understand the relationships between seep and non-seep populations of the deep-sea foraminifera Cibicidoides wuellerstorfi, a common paleo-indicator species, specimens from methane seeps in the Pacific were analyzed and compared to one another for genetic similarities of small subunit rDNA (SSU rDNA) sequences. Pacific Ocean C. wuellerstorfi were also compared to those collected from other localities around the world (based on 18S gene available on Genbank, e.g., Schweizer et al., 2009). Results from this study revealed that C. wuellerstorfi living in seeps near Costa Rica and Hydrate Ridge are genetically similar to one another at the species level. Individuals collected from the same location that display opposite coiling directions (dextral and sinstral) had no species level genetic differences. Comparisons of specimens with genetic information available from Genbank (SSU rDNA) showed that Pacific individuals, collected for this study, are genetically similar to those previously analyzed from the North Atlantic and Antarctic. These observations provide strong evidence for the true cosmopolitan nature of C. wuellerstorfi and highlight the importance of understanding how these microscopic organisms are able to maintain sufficient genetic exchange to remain within the same species between seep and non-seep habitats and over global distances.

Hansman, RL, Thurber AR, Levin LA, Aluwihare LI.  2017.  Methane fates in the benthos and water column at cold seep sites along the continental margin of Central and North America. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 120:122-131.   10.1016/j.dsr.2016.12.016   AbstractWebsite

The potential influence of methane seeps on carbon cycling is a key question for global assessments, but the study of carbon cycling in surface sediments and the water column of cold seep environments is complicated by the high temporal and spatial variability of fluid and gas fluxes at these sites. In this study we directly examined carbon sources supporting benthic and planktonic food webs at venting methane seeps using isotopic and molecular approaches that integrate this variability. At four seep environments located along North and Central America, microorganisms from two size fractions were collected over several days from 2800 to 90501 of seawater to provide a time-integrated measure of key microbial groups and the carbon sources supporting the overall planktonic microbial community. In addition to water column measurements, the extent of seafloor methane release was estimated at two of the sites by examining the stable carbon isotopic signature (delta C-13) of benthic metazoan infauna. This signature reveals carbon sources fueling the base of the food chain and thus provides a metric that represents a time-integrated view of the dominant microbial processes within the sediment. The stable carbon isotopic composition of microbial DNA (delta C-13-DNA), which had values between -17.0 and -19.5%(0), indicated that bulk planktonic microbial production was not ultimately linked to methane or other C-13-depleted seep-derived carbon sources. Instead these data support the importance of organic carbon derived from either photo- or chemoautotrophic CO2 fixation to the planktonic food web. Results of qPCR of microbial DNA sequences coding for a subunit of the particulate methane monooxygenase gene (pmoA) showed that only a small percentage of the planktonic microbial community were potential methane oxidizers possessing pmoA (< 5% of 16S rRNA gene copies). There was an overall decrease of C-13-depleted carbon fueling the benthic metazoan community from 3 to 5 cm below the seafloor to the sediment surface, reflecting limited use of isotopically depleted carbon at the sediment surface. Rare methane emission as indicated by limited aerobic methane oxidation acts to corroborate our findings for the planktonic microbial community.