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Discoveries at Lost City Hydrothermal vent field

Research Achievements

Discoveries at Lost City Hydrothermal vent field

IGERT trainee William Brazelton and IGERT faculty J. Baross and D. Kelley made important discoveries at the Lost City hydrothermal vent field in the mid-Atlantic, and published these in the prestigious journal PNAS. Fluids venting at Lost City are generally at 200 F or less, highly alkaline, and enriched in the gases methane and hydrogen - important energy sources for the microorganisms living in the vents that range in age from those newly formed to others tens of thousands of years old microbes. They found evidence that microorganisms can remain rare for a long time before completely turning the tables to become dominant when ecosystems change. Analyses by Brazelton and colleagues revealed that DNA sequences that were rare in younger vents were abundant in older ones. Because it is likely that the older Lost City chimneys released higher-temperature, higher-pH fluids when they were younger, as the ecosystem changed, the rare microorganisms came to the fore.