Volume 476 Issue 7359, 11 August 2011

Volume 476 Issue 7359

All life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents relies on the geofuels provided by hot fluids spewing from the sea floor. Only two of these fuels were known to provide energy for chemosynthetic symbionts - reduced sulphur compounds, used by sulphur-oxidizing symbionts, and methane, used by methane-oxidizing symbionts. Now hydrogen can be added to that list. Bathymodiolus mussels from hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge have been found to associate with microbial symbionts that can use hydrogen for primary production. A key gene for the oxidation of hydrogen is present in the symbionts of other hydrothermal vent animals such as the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila and the shrimp Rimicaris exoculata, suggesting that hydrogen may be an important energy source in other symbioses as well. Cover illustration: Abigail Lingford.

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