Capacity of deep-sea corals to obtain nutrition from cold seeps aligned with microbiome reorganization

Eslam O. Osman, Samuel A Vohsen, Fanny Girard, Rafaelina Cruz, Orli Glickman, Lena M Bullock, Kaitlin E Anderson, Alexis M Weinnig, Erik E Cordes, Charles R Fisher, Iliana B Baums

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Cold seeps in the deep sea harbor various animals that have adapted to utilize seepage chemicals with the aid of chemosynthetic microbes that serve as primary producers. Corals are among the animals that live near seep habitats and yet, there is a lack of evidence that corals gain benefits and/or incur costs from cold seeps. Here, we focused on Callogorgia delta and Paramuricea sp. type B3 that live near and far from visual signs of currently active seepage at five sites in the deep Gulf of Mexico. We tested whether these corals rely on chemosynthetically-derived food in seep habitats and how the proximity to cold seeps may influence; (i) coral colony traits (i.e., health status, growth rate, regrowth after sampling, and branch loss) and associated epifauna, (ii) associated microbiome, and (iii) host transcriptomes. Stable isotope data showed that many coral colonies utilized chemosynthetically derived food, but the feeding strategy differed by coral species. The microbiome composition of C. delta, unlike Paramuricea sp., varied significantly between seep and non-seep colonies and both coral species were associated with various sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SUP05). Interestingly, the relative abundances of SUP05 varied among seep and non-seep colonies and were strongly correlated with carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values. In contrast, the proximity to cold seeps did not have a measurable effect on gene expression, colony traits, or associated epifauna in coral species. Our work provides the first evidence that some corals may gain benefits from living near cold seeps with apparently limited costs to the colonies. Cold seeps provide not only hard substrate but also food to cold-water corals. Furthermore, restructuring of the microbiome communities (particularly SUP05) is likely the key adaptive process to aid corals in utilizing seepage-derived carbon. This highlights that those deep-sea corals may upregulate particular microbial symbiont communities to cope with environmental gradients.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlobal change biology
StatePublished - Oct 21 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-10-25
Acknowledgements: The authors thank ECOGIG for the funding. Special thanks to Kelsey Rogers and Jeff Chanton for providing stable isotope data of sediments. The authors also thank the operation team of EV Nautilus and ROV Hercules, Ocean Inspector, and ROV Global Explorer. This is contribution no. 598 from ECOGIG consortium. This work was primally funded by Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG) consortium through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI) provided to professors Iliana B. Baums, Erik Cordes, Charles R. Fisher.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry


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