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Professor Feng Dong’s Team at Shanghai Ocean University Revealing the Geochemical Imprints of the Nitrogen Cycling Process of Tube-worms in Extreme Environments

The release date:2023-05-27view:10Set

Recently, Professor Feng Dong’s Team at SHOU has made breakthroughs in research on the geochemical imprints of the life activities of tube-worms in deep-sea seeps. The achievement was published on Geology, a top journal in the field of geosciences, under the title of “Molybdenum isotope signature of microbial nitrogen utilization in siboglinid tube-worms”. Wang Xudong is the first author of this paper, and Wang Xudong and Feng Dong are the co-corresponding authors.

Deep-sea extreme ecosystems such as deeps are potential candidate environments for exploring the origin and evolution of life on earth. These ecosystems typically rely on the symbiotic relationship between chemoautotrophic microorganisms and their hosts to form life “oases” in the deep-sea “desert”, with tube-worms being one of the most representative species of macroorganisms. Adult tube-worms lack a functional digestive system, and completely depend on the symbiotic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in trophosomes to satisfy their energy and material needs. Existing studies suggest that the appearance of tube-worms in the deeps system seems to date back to the Devonian period, which, however, is inconsistent with the first appearance time of tube-worms demarcated according to morphological, molecular biological, ecological, and fossil evidence.

To solve the above scientific problems, the research team has taken a new path, taken the tube-worm Paraescarpia echinospica developed in the “Seahorse Seeps” area of the South China Sea as the research object, and started with its physiological characteristics to explore the unique geochemical imprints left by its life activities.

The results of this study indicated that the molybdenum isotope composition of the chitin shell of the tube-worm Paraescarpia echinospica living in the “Seahorse Seeps” area of the South China Sea could have a negative peak of -4.59 ‰, which is the lowest reported molybdenum isotope value for all natural substances to date. The extremely negatively skewed molybdenum isotope composition may be attributable to the preferential utilization of isotope light molybdenum by tube-worm trophosomes in the nitrate reduction process. By building a bridge between modern processes and geologic records, this study provided a unique geochemical perspective for the identification of ancient tube-worms in geologic history.

Cooperators from Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Hamburg, IFREMER, the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Temple University, Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey, and other units participated in this study. This study received support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (42225603, 42106059, 42176056) and the “Sailing Program” of the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission (21YF1416800).

Geology was founded by the Geological Society of America in 1973. It is issued on a monthly basis, with each issue containing about 23 short articles covering all fields of geosciences. Geology enjoys a high academic reputation in the international field of geosciences, and has been ranked No.1 in the field of “Geology” in the Web of Science citation database for 15 consecutive years.

Tube-worm developed in the “Seahorse Seeps” area (photographed by the “Seahorse” human occupied vehicle and provided by Professor Tao Jun)

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