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Deep ocean prokaryotic communities are remarkably malleable when facing long‐term starvation

Sebastián, Marta, Auguet, Jean‐Christophe, Restrepo‐Ortiz, Claudia Ximena, Sala, María Montserrat, Marrasé, Celia, Gasol, Josep M.
Environmental microbiology 2018 v.20 no.2 pp. 713-723
ecosystems, energy, microbial activity, microbial communities, organic carbon, phylotype, prokaryotic cells, solubilization, starvation
The bathypelagic ocean is one of the largest ecosystems on Earth and sustains half of the ocean's microbial activity. This microbial activity strongly relies on surface‐derived particles, but there is growing evidence that the carbon released through solubilization of these particles may not be sufficient to meet the energy demands of deep ocean prokaryotes. To explore how bathypelagic prokaryotes respond to the absence of external inputs of carbon, we followed the long‐term (1 year) dynamics of an enclosed community. Despite the lack of external energy supply, we observed a continuous succession of active prokaryotic phylotypes, which was driven by recruitment of taxa from the seed bank (i.e., initially rare operational taxonomic units [OTUs]). A single OTU belonging to Marine Group I of Thaumarchaeota, which was originally rare, dominated the microbial community for ∼ 4 months and played a fundamental role in this succession likely by introducing new organic carbon through chemolithoautotrophy. This carbon presumably produced a priming effect, because after the decline of Thaumarchaeota, the diversity and metabolic potential of the community increased back to the levels present at the start of the experiment. Our study demonstrates the profound versatility of deep microbial communities when facing organic carbon deprivation.