Samples were taken from the following locations and depths:
Kilo Moana (~2600 m water depth),
ABE (~2100 m water depth),
Tui Malila (~1875 m water depth), and
Mariner (~1900 m water depth) hydrothermal vent fields
The East Lau Spreading Center (ELSC) and Valu Fa Ridge (VFR) comprise a ridge segment in the southwest Pacific Ocean where rapid transitions in the underlying mantle chemistry manifest themselves as gradients in seafloor rock geochemistry. The investigators studied the geology and microbial diversity of three silicate rock samples and three inactive sulfide chimney samples collected, from north to south, at the vent fields Kilo Moana, ABE, Tui Malila, and Mariner. This is the first study of microbial populations on basaltic andesite, which was sampled at Mariner vent field. Silicate rock geochemistry exhibits clear latitudinal trends that are mirrored by changes in bacterial community composition. Alphaproteobacteria, Epsilonproteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes are most common on a silicate collected from Kilo Moana and their proportions decrease linearly on silicates collected further south. Conversely, a silicate from Mariner vent field hosts high proportions of a unique lineage of Chloroflexi unrelated (<90% sequence similarity) to previously recovered environmental clones or isolates, which decrease at ABE and are absent at Kilo Moana. The exteriors of inactive sulfide structures are dominated by lineages of sulfur oxidizing Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, and Epsilonproteobacteria, while the interior of one chimney is dominated by putative sulfur-reducing Deltaproteobacteria. A comparison of bacterial communities on inactive sulfides from this and previous studies reveals the presence of a clade of uncultured Bacteroidetes exclusive to sulfidic environments, and a high degree of heterogeneity in bacterial community composition from one sulfide structure to another. In light of the heterogeneous nature of bacterial communities observed here and in previous studies of both active and inactive hydrothermal sulfide structures, the presence of numerous niches may be detected on these structures in the future by finer scale sampling and analysis.