The deep-sea vestimentiferan tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi forms large aggregations at hydrocarbon seeps in the Gulf of Mexico that may persist for over 250 y. Here, we present the results of a diagenetic model in which tubeworm aggregation persistence is achieved through augmentation of the supply of sulfate to hydrocarbon seep sediments. In the model, L. luymesi releases the sulfate generated by its internal, chemoautotrophic, sulfide-oxidizing symbionts through posterior root-like extensions of its body. The sulfate fuels sulfate reduction, commonly coupled to anaerobic methane oxidation and hydrocarbon degradation by bacterial-archaeal consortia. If sulfate is released by the tubeworms, sulfide generation mainly by hydrocarbon degradation is sufficient to support moderate-sized aggregations of L. luymesi for hundreds of years. The results of this model expand our concept of the potential benefits derived from complex interspecific relationships, in this case involving members of all three domains of life.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)