Mahoney Lake represents an extreme meromictic model system and is a valuable site for examining the organisms and processes that sustain photic zone euxinia (PZE). A single population of purple sulfur bacteria (PSB) living in a dense phototrophic plate in the chemocline is responsible for most of the primary production in Mahoney Lake. Here, we present metagenomic data from this phototrophic plate - including the genome of the major PSB, as obtained from both a highly enriched culture and from the metagenomic data - as well as evidence for multiple other taxa that contribute to the oxidative sulfur cycle and to sulfate reduction. The planktonic PSB is a member of the Chromatiaceae, here renamed Thiohalocapsa sp. strain ML1. It produces the carotenoid okenone, yet its closest relatives are benthic PSB isolates, a finding that may complicate the use of okenone (okenane) as a biomarker for ancient PZE. Favorable thermodynamics for non-phototrophic sulfide oxidation and sulfate reduction reactions also occur in the plate, and a suite of organisms capable of oxidizing and reducing sulfur is apparent in the metagenome. Fluctuating supplies of both reduced carbon and reduced sulfur to the chemocline may partly account for the diversity of both autotrophic and heterotrophic species. Collectively, the data demonstrate the physiological potential for maintaining complex sulfur and carbon cycles in an anoxic water column, driven by the input of exogenous organic matter. This is consistent with suggestions that high levels of oxygenic primary production maintain episodes of PZE in Earth's history and that such communities should support a diversity of sulfur cycle reactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Environmental Science(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)