Long Live Rock! Exploring Active Microbial Populations in North Pond Subsurface Basalt

Monday, 15 December 2014
Heath Jordan Mills and John Lehne, University of Houston Clear Lake, Houston, TX, United States
Microbial life should be considered as an active source for subsurface alterations of crustal material. Over the past several decades, microbial populations have been qualitatively and quantitatively characterized in marine sediments from the near shore to gyre centers, from the surface to two kilometers below the surface. Recent exploration of the underlying basement has revealed bacterial populations within the basalt. Initial cultivation-based and in situ analysis of subsurface basalt has produced some structural identification of populations that have the potential to alter the crust. Within this study, we have advanced this understanding by characterizing the metabolically active fraction of these populations. A 16S rRNA gene transcript approach was conducted using high throughput sequencing on RNA extracted from breccia, glass basalts and ultramafic basalts of the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Previous research has shown that the fluid within the basement is oxic. As expected, populations associated with aerobic metabolism were detected. In addition, iron-utilizing populations were observed to be metabolically active within the basalt samples characterized. Future characterization will reveal overlap between previous studies to determine the total versus metabolically active populations.