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Chemosynthetic symbioses

MPS-Authors

Sogin,  E. Maggie
Department of Symbiosis, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Leisch,  Nikolaus
Department of Symbiosis, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Dubilier,  Nicole
Department of Symbiosis, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Sogin, E. M., Leisch, N., & Dubilier, N. (2020). Chemosynthetic symbioses. Current Biology, 30(19), R1137-R1142.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-61B5-F
Abstract
Symbioses between chemosynthetic bacteria and eukaryotic hosts can be found almost everywhere in the ocean, from shallow-water seagrass beds and coral reef sediments to the deep sea. Yet no one knew these existed until 45 years ago, when teeming communities of animals were found thriving at hydrothermal vents two and a half kilometers below the sea surface. The discovery of these lightless ecosystems revolutionized our understanding of the energy sources that fuel life on Earth. Animals thrive at vents because they live in a nutritional symbiosis with chemosynthetic bacteria that grow on chemical compounds gushing out of the vents, such as sulfide and methane, which animals cannot use on their own. The symbionts gain energy from the oxidation of these reduced substrates to fix CO2 and other simple carbon compounds into biomass, which is then transferred to the host. By associating with chemosynthetic bacteria, animals and protists can thrive in environments in which there is not enough organic carbon to support their nutrition, including oligotrophic habitats like coral reefs and seagrass meadows. Chemosymbioses have evolved repeatedly and independently in multiple lineages of marine invertebrates and bacteria, highlighting the strong selective advantage for both hosts and symbionts in forming these associations. Here, we provide a brief overview of chemosynthesis and how these symbioses function. We highlight some of the current research in this field and outline several promising avenues for future research.