Methanotrophic bacterial symbionts fuel dense populations of deep-sea feather duster worms (Sabellida, Annelida) and extend the spatial influence of methane seepage
Goffredi, Shana (2020), Methanotrophic bacterial symbionts fuel dense populations of deep-sea feather duster worms (Sabellida, Annelida) and extend the spatial influence of methane seepage, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.wdbrv15jq
Deep-sea methane seeps are dynamic sources of greenhouse gas production and unique habitats supporting ocean biodiversity and productivity. Here, we demonstrate new animal-bacterial symbioses fueled by methane, between two undescribed species of annelid (a serpulid Laminatubus and sabellid Bispira) and distinct methane-oxidizing Methylococcales bacteria. Worm tissue delta 13C of -44 to -58 per mil suggested methane-fueled nutrition for both species and shipboard experiments revealed active assimilation of 13C-labelled CH4 into animal biomass, occurring via engulfment of methanotrophic bacteria across the host epidermal surface. These worms represent a new addition to the few animals known to intimately associate with methane-oxidizing bacteria, and further explain their enigmatic mass occurrence at 150-million-year-old fossil seeps. High-resolution seafloor surveys document significant coverage by these symbioses, beyond typical obligate seep fauna. These findings uncover novel consumers of methane in the deep-sea, and by expanding the known spatial extent of methane seeps, may have important implications for deep-sea conservation.