Anna-Louise Reysenbach

Date of Award

Fall 1-27-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 115 pages)


Archaebacteria -- Analysis, Hydrothermal vent animals -- Research




Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are some of the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth, yet receive little to no input of photosynthetically derived organic matter. The trophic system at hydrothermal vents is based primarily on the reduction-oxidation (redox) of inorganic chemicals by Bacteria and Archaea. However, the distributional patterns of the microorganisms that colonize deep-sea hydrothermal vent deposits and their link to the geologic setting are still not deeply understood.

The goal of the studies presented in this thesis was to quantify the abundance, and distribution of major and understudied vent colonizing archaeal groups from globally distributed and geochemically distinct hydrothermal vent fields. The archaeal community composition was analyzed using quantitative PCR with lineage specific functional gene primers that target methanogens, and 16S rRNA gene primers designed or optimized from this study for the Thermococcales, Archaeoglobus, Ignicoccus and marine Nanoarchaeota.

Overall, a general relationship was demonstrated between the geochemical differences of the hydrothermal vent fields and the archaeal community structure. The archaeal community assemblage varied dramatically from hydrothermal vents with different vent host rocks along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and Eastern Lau Spreading Center. In contrast, two vent fields in the East Pacific, 9°N on the EPR and Guaymas Basin that are basalt and basalt-sediment hosted were found to have similar community composition. These observed differences may be driven in part by the metabolically available chemical energy as hydrogen oxidizing lineages of the methanogens and Archaeoglobus were found in higher abundance in the samples from vent field that had a high concentration of end-member hydrogen and the heterotrophic Thermococcales constituted a higher proportion of the archaeal community at the less enriched vent fields. Interestingly, the Nanoarchaeota and the genus of its only confirmed symbiont, Ignicoccus, were found to have an inconsistent proportional relationship, with the Nanoarchaeota comprising a larger proportion of the archaeal community at the ultramafic and fast spreading basalt vent fields and Ignicoccus at the ultra-slow spreading basalt and andesite hosted vent fields.

There was also a more localized pattern identified within the hydrothermal vent deposit. The chemosynthetic lineages of the methanogens and Archaeoglobus constituted a higher proportion of the archaeal community in chimney samples compared to Thermococcales that was found in a higher proportion at horizontal flange samples. This archaeal proportional shift could be driven by energetic micro-niches within the vent deposit, as the chemolithotrophic lineages colonize the area closest to the venting source, and the heterotrophic Thermococcales dominate in more mature structures further from the venting source.

Quantitative assessments of the archaeal community composition from this study provided added insight into the dynamic geologic influence on the archaeal lineages that colonize deep-sea hydrothermal vents, on a global and local scale.

Persistent Identifier