Temperature limits to deep subseafloor life in the Nankai Trough subduction zone

Verena B Heuer, Fumio Inagaki, Yuki Morono, Yusuke Kubo, Arthur J Spivack, Bernhard Viehweger, Tina Treude, Felix Beulig, Florence Schubotz, Satoshi Tonai, Stephen A Bowden, Margaret Cramm, Susann Henkel, Takehiro Hirose, Kira Homola, Tatsuhiko Hoshino, Akira Ijiri, Hiroyuki Imachi, Nana Kamiya, Masanori KanekoLorenzo Lagostina, Hayley Manners, Harry-Luke McClelland, Kyle Metcalfe, Natsumi Okutsu, Donald Pan, Maija J Raudsepp, Justine Sauvage, Man-Yin Tsang, David T Wang, Emily Whitaker, Yuzuru Yamamoto, Kiho Yang, Lena Maeda, Rishi R Adhikari, Clemens Glombitza, Yohei Hamada, Jens Kallmeyer, Jenny Wendt, Lars Wörmer, Yasuhiro Yamada, Masataka Kinoshita, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs

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Abstract

Marine sediments represent a massive microbial ecosystem, but we still do not fully understand what factors shape and limit life underneath the seafloor. Analyzing samples from a subduction zone off the coast of Japan, Heuer et al. found that microbial life, in particular bacterial vegetative cells, decreases as depth and temperature increases down to ∼600 meters below the seafloor, corresponding to temperatures of ∼70°C. Below this limit, endospores are common—a remnant, and a potential reservoir, of bacterial life. Deeper still is a sterile zone, and below 1000 meters is a scalding realm populated by vegetative cells. At such great depths, high concentrations of acetate and sulfate coexist, and there are also signs of hyperthermophilic methanogenesis. These data provide a fascinating window into an extreme and inhospitable environment that nonetheless supports microbial life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1230-1234
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume370
Issue number6521
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2020

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