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Microbial Diversity of Deep-Sea Ferromanganese Crust Field in the Rio Grande Rise, Southwestern Atlantic Ocean


Seamounts are often covered with Fe and Mn oxides, known as ferromanganese (Fe–Mn) crusts. Future mining of these crusts is predicted to have significant effects on biodiversity in mined areas. Although microorganisms have been reported on Fe–Mn crusts, little is known about the role of crusts in shaping microbial communities. Here, we investigated microbial communities based on 16S rRNA gene sequences retrieved from Fe–Mn crusts, coral skeleton, calcarenite, and biofilm at crusts of the Rio Grande Rise (RGR). RGR is a prominent topographic feature in the deep southwestern Atlantic Ocean with Fe–Mn crusts. Our results revealed that crust field of the RGR harbors a usual deep-sea microbiome. No differences were observed on microbial community diversity among Fe–Mn substrates. Bacterial and archaeal groups related to oxidation of nitrogen compounds, such as Nitrospirae, Nitrospinae phyla, Candidatus Nitrosopumilus within Thaumarchaeota group, were present on those substrates. Additionally, we detected abundant assemblages belonging to methane oxidation, i.e., Methylomirabilales (NC10) and SAR324 (Deltaproteobacteria). The chemolithoautotrophs associated with ammonia-oxidizing archaea and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria potentially play an important role as primary producers in the Fe–Mn substrates from RGR. These results provide the first insights into the microbial diversity and potential ecological processes in Fe–Mn substrates from the Atlantic Ocean. This may also support draft regulations for deep-sea mining in the region.

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Data Availability

The sequencing reads generated for this study can be found in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database under the BioProject PRJNA638744.


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We thank the captain and the crew of the Royal Research Ship Discovery cruise DY094 for their data and sampling support, as well as LECOM’s research team and Rosa C. Gamba for their scientific support. Also, we thank Mariana Benites and Pedro M. Tura for all sampling and scientific support, and all MarineE-tech members.  


This study was funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), Grant number: 14/50820-7, Project Marine ferromanganese deposits: a major resource of E-Tech elements, which is an international collaboration between Natural Environment Research Council (NERC, UK) and FAPESP (BRA). NMB thanks the Ph.D. scholarship financed by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001.

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Correspondence to Vivian Helena Pellizari.

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Bergo, N.M., Bendia, A.G., Ferreira, J.C.N. et al. Microbial Diversity of Deep-Sea Ferromanganese Crust Field in the Rio Grande Rise, Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Microb Ecol 82, 344–355 (2021).

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  • Deep-sea ferromanganese crusts
  • Microbial community
  • Biogeochemical cycling
  • Rio Grande Rise
  • Geomicrobiology