skip to main content

Title: Evidence That Microorganisms at the Animal-Water Interface Drive Sea Star Wasting Disease
Sea star wasting (SSW) disease describes a condition affecting asteroids that resulted in significant Northeastern Pacific population decline following a mass mortality event in 2013. The etiology of SSW is unresolved. We hypothesized that SSW is a sequela of microbial organic matter remineralization near respiratory surfaces, one consequence of which may be limited O 2 availability at the animal-water interface. Microbial assemblages inhabiting tissues and at the asteroid-water interface bore signatures of copiotroph proliferation before SSW onset, followed by the appearance of putatively facultative and strictly anaerobic taxa at the time of lesion genesis and as animals died. SSW lesions were induced in Pisaster ochraceus by enrichment with a variety of organic matter (OM) sources. These results together illustrate that depleted O 2 conditions at the animal-water interface may be established by heterotrophic microbial activity in response to organic matter loading. SSW was also induced by modestly (∼39%) depleted O 2 conditions in aquaria, suggesting that small perturbations in dissolved O 2 may exacerbate the condition. SSW susceptibility between species was significantly and positively correlated with surface rugosity, a key determinant of diffusive boundary layer thickness. Tissues of SSW-affected individuals collected in 2013–2014 bore δ 15 N signatures reflecting anaerobic processes, which suggests that this phenomenon may have affected asteroids during mass mortality at the time. The impacts of enhanced microbial activity and subsequent O 2 diffusion limitation may be more pronounced under higher temperatures due to lower O 2 solubility, in more rugose asteroid species due to restricted hydrodynamic flow, and in larger specimens due to their lower surface area to volume ratios which affects diffusive respiratory potential.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1737381 1735607
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Microbiology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    Winter carbon loss in northern ecosystems is estimated to be greater than the average growing season carbon uptake and is primarily driven by microbial decomposers. Viruses modulate microbial carbon cycling via induced mortality and metabolic controls, but it is unknown whether viruses are active under winter conditions (anoxic and sub-freezing temperatures).


    We used stable isotope probing (SIP) targeted metagenomics to reveal the genomic potential of active soil microbial populations under simulated winter conditions, with an emphasis on viruses and virus-host dynamics. Arctic peat soils from the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research site in Alaska were incubated under sub-freezing anoxic conditions with H218O or natural abundance water for 184 and 370 days. We sequenced 23 SIP-metagenomes and measured carbon dioxide (CO2) efflux throughout the experiment. We identified 46 bacterial populations (spanning 9 phyla) and 243 viral populations that actively took up18O in soil and respired CO2throughout the incubation. Active bacterial populations represented only a small portion of the detected microbial community and were capable of fermentation and organic matter degradation. In contrast, active viral populations represented a large portion of the detected viral community and one third were linked to active bacterial populations. We identified 86 auxiliary metabolic genes and other environmentally relevant genes. The majority of these genes were carried by active viral populations and had diverse functions such as carbon utilization and scavenging that could provide their host with a fitness advantage for utilizing much-needed carbon sources or acquiring essential nutrients.


    Overall, there was a stark difference in the identity and function of the active bacterial and viral community compared to the unlabeled community that would have been overlooked with a non-targeted standard metagenomic analysis. Our results illustrate that substantial active virus-host interactions occur in sub-freezing anoxic conditions and highlight viruses as a major community-structuring agent that likely modulates carbon loss in peat soils during winter, which may be pivotal for understanding the future fate of arctic soils' vast carbon stocks.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We report a statistically significant detection of nongravitational acceleration on the subkilometer near-Earth asteroid (523599) 2003 RM. Due to its orbit, 2003 RM experiences favorable observing apparitions every 5 yr. Thus, since its discovery, 2003 RM has been extensively tracked with ground-based optical facilities in 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. We find that the observed plane-of-sky positions cannot be explained with a purely gravity-driven trajectory. Including a transverse nongravitational acceleration allows us to match all observational data, but its magnitude is inconsistent with perturbations typical of asteroids such as the Yarkovsky effect or solar radiation pressure. After ruling out that the orbital deviations are due to a close approach or collision with another asteroid, we hypothesize that this anomalous acceleration is caused by unseen cometary outgassing. A detailed search for evidence of cometary activity with archival and deep observations from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System and the Very Large Telescope does not reveal any detectable dust production. However, the best-fitting H2O sublimation model allows for brightening due to activity consistent with the scatter of the data. We estimate the production rate required for H2O outgassing to power the acceleration and find that, assuming a diameter of 300 m, 2003 RM would require Q(H2O) ∼ 1023molec s−1at perihelion. We investigate the recent dynamical history of 2003 RM and find that the object most likely originated in the mid-to-outer main belt (∼86% probability) as opposed to from the Jupiter-family comet region (∼11% probability). Further observations, especially in the infrared, could shed light on the nature of this anomalous acceleration.

    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Hypoxia and associated acidification are growing concerns for ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles in the coastal zone. The northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM) has experienced large seasonal hypoxia for decades linked to the eutrophication of the continental shelf fueled by the Mississippi River nutrient discharge. Sediments play a key role in maintaining hypoxic and acidified bottom waters, but this role is still not completely understood. In the summer 2017, when the surface area of the hypoxic zone in the nGoM was the largest ever recorded, we investigated four stations on the continental shelf differentially influenced by river inputs of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River System and seasonal hypoxia. We investigated diagenetic processes under normoxic, hypoxic, and nearly anoxic bottom waters by coupling amperometric, potentiometric, and voltammetric microprofiling with high-resolution diffusive equilibrium in thin-films (DET) profiles and porewater analyses. In addition, we used a time-series of bottom-water dissolved oxygen from May to November 2017, which indicated intense O 2 consumption in bottom waters related to organic carbon recycling. At the sediment-water interface (SWI), we found that oxygen consumption linked to organic matter recycling was large with diffusive oxygen uptake (DOU) of 8 and 14 mmol m –2 d –1 , except when the oxygen concentration was near anoxia (5 mmol m –2 d –1 ). Except at the station located near the Mississippi river outlet, the downcore pore water sulfate concentration decrease was limited, with little increase in alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), ammonium, and phosphate suggesting that low oxygen conditions did not promote anoxic diagenesis as anticipated. We attributed the low anoxic diagenesis intensity to a limitation in organic substrate supply, possibly linked to the reduction of bioturbation during the hypoxic spring and summer. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Vertical profiles of benthic foraminiferal oxygen and carbon isotopes (δ18O and δ13C) imply the volume of southern source water (SSW) in the Atlantic basin expanded during the Last Glacial Maximum. Shoaling of the boundary between SSW and northern source water (NSW) may reduce mixing between the two watermasses, thereby isolating SSW and enhancing its ability to store carbon during glacial intervals. Here we test this hypothesis using profiles of δ18O and δ13C from the Brazil Margin spanning the last glacial cycle (0–150 ka). Shoaling of the SSW‐NSW boundary occurred during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2, 4, and 6, consistent with expansion of SSW and greater carbon sequestration in the abyss. But the watermass boundary also shoaled during MIS 5e, when atmospheric CO2levels were comparable to MIS 1. Additionally, we find there was little change in watermass structure across the MIS 5e‐d transition, the first major decline in CO2of the last glacial cycle. Thus, the overall pattern in glacial‐interglacial geometry is inconsistent with watermass mixing acting as a primary control on atmospheric pCO2. We also find that δ13C values for MIS 5e are systematically lower than MIS 1, with the largest difference (∼1‰) occurring in the upper water column. Low δ13C during MIS 5e was most likely due to a long‐term imbalance in weathering and deposition of calcium carbonate or input of13C‐depleted carbon from a reservoir external to the ocean‐atmosphere system.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Growing evidence suggests microbial respiration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) may be a principal driver of subsurface dissolution and cave formation in eogenetic carbonate rock. Analyses of samples of vadose zone gasses, and geochemical and hydrological data collected from shallow, uncased wells on San Salvador Island, Bahamas, suggest tidally varying water tables may help fuel microbial respiration and dissolution through oxygenation. Respiration of soil organic carbon transported to water tables generates dysaerobic to anaerobic groundwater, limiting aerobic microbial processes. Positive correlations of carbon dioxide (CO2), radon‐222 (222Rn) and water table elevation indicate, however, that tidal pumping of water tables pulls atmospheric air that is rich in oxygen, and low in CO2and222Rn, into contact with the tidal capillary fringe during falling tides. Ratios of CO2and O2in vadose gas relative to the atmosphere indicate this atmospheric oxygen fuels respiration within newly‐exposed, wetted bedrock. Deficits of expected CO2relative to O2concentrations indicate some respired CO2is likely removed by carbonate mineral dissolution. Tidal pumping also appears capable of transferring oxygen to the freshwater lens, where it could also contribute to respiration and dissolution; dissolved oxygen concentrations at the water table are at least 5% saturated and decline to anaerobic conditions 1–2 m below. Our results demonstrate how tidal pumping of air to vadose zones can drive mineral dissolution reactions that are focused near water tables and may contribute to the formation of laterally continuous vuggy horizons and potentially caves. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    more » « less