Inactive hydrothermal vent microbial communities are important contributors to deep ocean primary productivity. Academic Article uri icon


  • Active hydrothermal vents are oases for productivity in the deep ocean, but the flow of dissolved substrates that fuel such abundant life ultimately ceases, leaving behind inactive mineral deposits. The rates of microbial activity on these deposits are largely unconstrained. Here we show primary production occurs on inactive hydrothermal deposits and quantify its contribution to new organic carbon production in the deep ocean. Measured incorporation of 14C-bicarbonate shows that microbial communities on inactive deposits fix inorganic carbon at rates comparable to those on actively venting deposits. Single-cell uptake experiments and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry showed chemoautotrophs comprise a large fraction (>30%) of the active microbial cells. Metagenomic and lipidomic surveys of inactive deposits further revealed that the microbial communities are dominated by Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria using the Calvin-Benson-Bassham pathway for carbon fixation. These findings establish inactive vent deposits as important sites for microbial activity and organic carbon production on the seafloor.

published proceedings

  • Nat Microbiol

author list (cited authors)

  • Achberger, A. M., Jones, R., Jamieson, J., Holmes, C. P., Schubotz, F., Meyer, N. R., ... Sylvan, J. B.

complete list of authors

  • Achberger, Amanda M||Jones, Rose||Jamieson, John||Holmes, Charles P||Schubotz, Florence||Meyer, Nicolette R||Dekas, Anne E||Moriarty, Sarah||Reeves, Eoghan P||Manthey, Alex||Brünjes, Jonas||Fornari, Daniel J||Tivey, Margaret K||Toner, Brandy M||Sylvan, Jason B

publication date

  • January 2024