A novel, mat-formingThiomargaritapopulation associated with a sulfidic fluid flow from a deep-sea mud volcano

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SummaryA mat-forming population of the giant sulfur bacteriumThiomargaritawas discovered at the flank of the mud volcano Amon on the Nile Deep Sea Fan in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. All cells were of a spherical and vacuolated phenotype and internally stored globules of elemental sulfur. With a diameter of 24–65 μm,Thiomargaritacells from the Eastern Mediterranean were substantially smaller than cells of previously described populations. A 16S rRNA gene fragment was amplified and could be assigned to theThiomargarita-resembling cells by fluorescencein situhybridization. This sequence is monophyletic with publishedThiomargaritasequences but sequence similarities are only about 94%, indicating a distinct diversification. In the investigated habitat, highly dynamic conditions favourThiomargaritaspecies over other sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. In contrast toThiomargarita namibiensispopulations, which rely on periodic resuspension from sulfidic sediment into the oxygenated water column,Thiomargaritacells at the Amon mud volcano seem to remain stationary at the sediment surface while environmental conditions change around them due to periodic brine flow.

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