Guaymas Basin

The Guaymas Basin hydrothermal vent site at 2000 m depth in the Gulf of California is a unique hydrothermal system; here, hydrothermal vents are buried under several hundred meter thick, organic-rich sediments. The vent fluids percolate upwards through the thick sediment layer, changing their chemical signature along the way and emerging at the sediment surface as a brew rich in petroleum hydrocarbons. The sediments of Guaymas  harbor highly active microbial methane and sulfur cycles, and provide a natural model system for the microbial utilization of fossil buried biomass that is undergoing thermal maturation to petroleum. Usually, these processes occur in the deep subsurface over spatial scales on 100s or 1000s of meters.


At Guaymas Basin, the microbial recycling of fossil organic matter occurs in highly active sediments on a scale of less than a meter, which facilitates sampling, rate measurements and microbial analyses. At the Guaymas vents, layered microbial communities of sulfate reducers, methanogens, methane oxidizers, and oxidizers of petroleum compounds (all in a wide temperature spectrum, up to extremely thermophilic) intercept carbon substrates of deep  subsurface origin, and oxidize them as they rise to the sediment surface. The resulting mix of CO2-rich, sulfidic fluids sustains extensive mats of sulfide-oxidizing, autotrophic bacteria of the genus Beggiatoa that cover the sediments at Guaymas in big patches (see photo on right) . In addition, the Guaymas sediments harbor extremely thermophilic bacteria and archaea in the geothermally heated sediments just below the sediment surface. Molecular analysis based on rRNA, functional genes and lipid biomarkers have revealed a wide range of uncultured bacteria, archaea and eukarya in Guaymas Basin.

The Teske lab is revisiting the Guaymas vents in December 2008 and 2009, with RV Atlantis (photo below) and deep-sea submersible Alvin, to investigate the links between geochemical processes of the sulfur, carbon and nitrogen cycles, and composition, activity and zonation of the microbial communities within the Guaymas hydrothermal sediments. This project is funded mainly by NSF Biological Oceanography.


Guaymas Cruise Blogs:

Guaymas Basin Cruise 2009

Guaymas Basin Cruise 2008


Teske Lab publications on Guaymas Basin:

Teske, A., K.-U. Hinrichs , V. Edgcomb, A. de Vera Gomez , D. Kysela , S. P. Sylva, M. L. Sogin, and H. W. Jannasch. 2002. Microbial Diversity in Hydrothermal Sediments in the Guaymas Basin: Evidence for Anaerobic Methanotrophic Communities. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 68:1994-2007.

Edgcomb, V., D. Kysela, A. Teske, A. de Vera Gomez, and M. L. Sogin. 2002. Benthic eukaryotic diversity in the Guaymas Basin, a hydrothermal vent environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. 99:7658-7662.

Teske, A., A. Dhillon, and M. S. Sogin. 2003. Genomic Markers of ancient anaerobic microbial pathways: sulfate reduction, methanogenesis, and methane oxidation. The Biological Bulletin 204:186-191.

Dhillon, A., A. Teske. J. Dillon, D. A. Stahl, and M. L. Sogin. Molecular characterization of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the Guaymas Basin. 2003. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69:2765-2772.

Dhillon, A., M.A. Lever, K.G. Lloyd, D.B. Albert, M.L. Sogin and A. Teske. 2005. Methanogen Diversity Evidenced by Molecular Characterization of Methyl Coenzyme M Reductase A (mcrA) Genes (mcrA) in Hydrothermal Sediments of the Guaymas Basin. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 71:4592-4601.

Teske, A., V. Edgcomb, A. R. Rivers, J. R. Thompson, A. de Vera Gomez, S. J. Molyneaux, and C. O. Wirsen. 2009. A molecular and physiological survey of a diverse collection of hydrothermal vent Thermococcus and Pyrococcus isolates. Extremophiles 13:917-923. 

Subpages (1): Guaymas cruise log
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