Microbial-tubeworm associations in a 440 million year old hydrothermal vent community
PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
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Microorganisms are the chief primary producers within present-day deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems, and play a fundamental role in shaping the ecology of these environments. However, very little is known about the microbes that occurred within, and structured, ancient vent communities. The evolutionary history, diversity and the nature of interactions between ancient vent microorganisms and hydrothermal vent animals are largely undetermined. The oldest known hydrothermal vent community that includes metazoans is preserved within the Ordovician to early Silurian Yaman Kasy massive sulfide deposit, Ural Mountains, Russia. This deposit contains two types of tube fossil attributed to annelid worms. A re-examination of these fossils using a range of microscopy, chemical analysis and nano-tomography techniques reveals the preservation of filamentous microorganisms intimately associated with the tubes. The microfossils bear a strong resemblance to modern hydrothermal vent microbial filaments, including those preserved within the mineralized tubes of the extant vent polychaete genus Alvinella. The Yaman Kasy fossil filaments represent the oldest animal–microbial associations preserved within an ancient hydrothermal vent environment. They allude to a diverse microbial community, and also demonstrate that remarkable fine-scale microbial preservation can also be observed in ancient vent deposits, suggesting the possible existence of similar exceptionally preserved microfossils in even older vent environments.
AuthorsGeorgieva, MN; Little, CTS; Bailey, RJ; Ball, AD; Glover, AG
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