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null (Ed.)Cold seeps and hydrothermal vents are seafloor habitats fueled by subsurface energy sources. Both habitat types coexist in Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California, providing an opportunity to compare microbial communities with distinct physiologies adapted to different thermal regimes. Hydrothermally active sites in the southern Guaymas Basin axial valley, and cold seep sites at Octopus Mound, a carbonate mound with abundant methanotrophic cold seep fauna at the Central Seep location on the northern off-axis flanking regions, show consistent geochemical and microbial differences between hot, temperate, cold seep, and background sites. The changing microbial actors include autotrophic and heterotrophic bacterial and archaeal lineages that catalyze sulfur, nitrogen, and methane cycling, organic matter degradation, and hydrocarbon oxidation. Thermal, biogeochemical, and microbiological characteristics of the sampling locations indicate that sediment thermal regime and seep-derived or hydrothermal energy sources structure the microbial communities at the sediment surface.more » « less
The Guaymas Basin spreading center, at 2000 m depth in the Gulf of California, is overlain by a thick sedimentary cover. Across the basin, localized temperature anomalies, with active methane venting and seep fauna exist in response to magma emplacement into sediments. These sites evolve over thousands of years as magma freezes into doleritic sills and the system cools. Although several cool sites resembling cold seeps have been characterized, the hydrothermally active stage of an off-axis site was lacking good examples. Here, we present a multidisciplinary characterization of Ringvent, an ~1 km wide circular mound where hydrothermal activity persists ~28 km northwest of the spreading center. Ringvent provides a new type of intermediate-stage hydrothermal system where off-axis hydrothermal activity has attenuated since its formation, but remains evident in thermal anomalies, hydrothermal biota coexisting with seep fauna, and porewater biogeochemical signatures indicative of hydrothermal circulation. Due to their broad potential distribution, small size and limited life span, such sites are hard to find and characterize, but they provide critical missing links to understand the complex evolution of hydrothermal systems.