Adaptations of Organisms at the Sulfide- and Methane-Containing Hydrothermal Areas of Deception Island, Antarctica
Deception Island is a flooded caldera in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. The most recent eruption was in the 1970s causing the formation of new islands in the caldera and various other structures. It harbors many hot springs and fumaroles submerged in the caldera and intertidally. Sulfide and methane are prominent chemicals in the outflowing waters. Bacterial densities in the caldera reach unusually high values probably due to the input of reduced chemicals as energy sources. The environment around the springs resembles that found at hydrothermal vents where whole communities are based on the input of chemical energy by the hot waters. Similarities to hydrothermal vent environments include cold waters surrounding the hot springs resulting in large distances to the next warm water habitat and a lack of external food sources. The latter is due to ice cover during winter at Deception Island and the large distance to the euphotic zone at the vent sites. These parameters encourage the evolution of alternative ways to support life such as the establishment of a bacterial symbiosis. This Small Grant for Exploratory Research project will focus on an examination of the warm springs around Deception Island for the presence of marine invertebrates with chemoautotrophic symbionts. Maps will be made of any submerged fumaroles and of warm and hot springs in the intertidal zone. If animals are found near the fumaroles or in the hot springs, specimens will be collected. Collected specimens will be examined for the presence of chemoautotrophic bacteria and other adaptations to a hot sulfide- and methane-rich environment using enzyme text experimental incubations to analyze metabolic pathways and microscopic examination.
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