Thermogenic hydrocarbon biodegradation by diverse depth-stratified microbial populations at a Scotian Basin cold seep

Xiyang Dong, Jayne E. Rattray, D. Calvin Campbell, Jamie Webb, Anirban Chakraborty, Oyeboade Adebayo, Stuart Matthews, Carmen Li, Martin Fowler, Natasha M. Morrison, Adam MacDonald, Ryan A. Groves, Ian A. Lewis, Scott H. Wang, Daisuke Mayumi, Chris Greening, Casey R.J. Hubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


At marine cold seeps, gaseous and liquid hydrocarbons migrate from deep subsurface origins to the sediment-water interface. Cold seep sediments are known to host taxonomically diverse microorganisms, but little is known about their metabolic potential and depth distribution in relation to hydrocarbon and electron acceptor availability. Here we combined geophysical, geochemical, metagenomic and metabolomic measurements to profile microbial activities at a newly discovered cold seep in the deep sea. Metagenomic profiling revealed compositional and functional differentiation between near-surface sediments and deeper subsurface layers. In both sulfate-rich and sulfate-depleted depths, various archaeal and bacterial community members are actively oxidizing thermogenic hydrocarbons anaerobically. Depth distributions of hydrocarbon-oxidizing archaea revealed that they are not necessarily associated with sulfate reduction, which is especially surprising for anaerobic ethane and butane oxidizers. Overall, these findings link subseafloor microbiomes to various biochemical mechanisms for the anaerobic degradation of deeply-sourced thermogenic hydrocarbons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5825
Number of pages14
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020


  • carbon cycle
  • marine microbiology
  • microbial ecology

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