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Nat Ecol Evol. 2017 Apr 24;1(6):144. doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0144.

A submarine volcanic eruption leads to a novel microbial habitat.

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Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona 60131, Italy.
Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples, Naples 80121, Italy.
CRG Marine Geosciences, Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics, Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Barcelona, Barcelona E-08028, Spain.
Scott Polar Research Institute, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, UK.
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Corazón de María 8, Madrid E-28002, Spain.
Dipartimento di Scienze e Ingegneria della Materia, dell'Ambiente ed Urbanistica, Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona 60131, Italy.


Submarine volcanic eruptions are major catastrophic events that allow investigation of the colonization mechanisms of newly formed seabed. We explored the seafloor after the eruption of the Tagoro submarine volcano off El Hierro Island, Canary Archipelago. Near the summit of the volcanic cone, at about 130 m depth, we found massive mats of long, white filaments that we named Venus's hair. Microscopic and molecular analyses revealed that these filaments are made of bacterial trichomes enveloped within a sheath and colonized by epibiotic bacteria. Metagenomic analyses of the filaments identified a new genus and species of the order Thiotrichales, Thiolava veneris. Venus's hair shows an unprecedented array of metabolic pathways, spanning from the exploitation of organic and inorganic carbon released by volcanic degassing to the uptake of sulfur and nitrogen compounds. This unique metabolic plasticity provides key competitive advantages for the colonization of the new habitat created by the submarine eruption. A specialized and highly diverse food web thrives on the complex three-dimensional habitat formed by these microorganisms, providing evidence that Venus's hair can drive the restart of biological systems after submarine volcanic eruptions.


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