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Microbial niches in marine oxygen minimum zones


In the ocean’s major oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), oxygen is effectively absent from sea water and life is dominated by microorganisms that use chemicals other than oxygen for respiration. Recent studies that combine advanced genomic and chemical detection methods are delineating the different metabolic niches that microorganisms can occupy in OMZs. Understanding these niches, the microorganisms that inhabit them, and their influence on marine biogeochemical cycles is crucial as OMZs expand with increasing seawater temperatures.

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Change history

  • 08 October 2018

    In Figure  3, ‘Candidatus Scalindua’ and Thaumarchaeota were erroneously shown to produce nitrous oxide (N2O). As neither group directly produces N2O, the arrows and products have been removed both online and in the pdf. The authors apologize for any confusion caused.


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The authors thank the National Science Foundation (grants 1151698, 1558916 and 1564559 to F.J.S.) for generous and valuable support of OMZ research.

Reviewer information

Nature Reviews Microbiology thanks A. Babbin, M. Kuypers and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Both authors researched data for the article, made substantial contributions to discussions of the content, wrote the article and reviewed and edited the manuscript before submission.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Frank J. Stewart.

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Fig. 1: Global marine OMZ distribution.

Reproduced from Frank J. Stewart and Osvaldo Ulloa, from: Metagenomics of the Microbial Nitrogen Cycle: Theory, Methods and Applications (Edited by: Diana Marco). Caister Academic Press, UK (2014)82.

Fig. 2: Chemical and biological gradients in OMZs.
Fig. 3: A diversity of metabolic niches in OMZs.