Biomarkers, chemistry and microbiology show chemoautotrophy in a multilayer chemocline in the Cariaco Basin

Stuart G. Wakeham*, Courtney Turich, Florence Schubotz, Agnieszka Podlaska, Xiaona N. Li, Ramon Varela, Yrene Astor, James P. Sáenz, Darci Rush, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Roger E. Summons, Mary I. Scranton, Gordon T. Taylor, Kai Uwe Hinrichs

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)


    The Cariaco Basin is the world's largest truly marine anoxic basin. We have conducted a comprehensive multidisciplinary investigation of the water column (42-750. m) bracketing the redox boundary (a 250-m thick "chemocline") of the Cariaco Basin to evaluate linkages between lipid biomarkers, distributions of major dissolved chemical species, and the microbial community and associated redox processes. Our multidimensional data set includes: hydrography, water column chemistry, microbial distributions and rates, and lipid biomarkers. Multivariant statistical analysis of this data set partitions the investigated water column into 5 distinct zones, each characterized by different chemistries, microbiologies and biomarker compositions. The core of this chemocline is a 25-m thick suboxic zone where both dissolved oxygen and sulfide were below detection limits, bacterial and archaeal cell numbers and the rate of chemoautotrophic (dark) carbon fixation are elevated, and dissolved chemical species and bacterial and archaeal lipid biomarkers are indicative of tightly coupled cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur through chemoautotrophy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-156
    Number of pages24
    JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
    Publication statusPublished - May 2012


    • Ammonium oxidation
    • Archaea
    • Bacteria
    • Cariaco Basin
    • Chemoautotrophy
    • Lipid biomarkers
    • Particulate matter
    • Sulfur oxidation


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