Encyclopedia of Geobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Joachim Reitner, Volker Thiel


  • Volker Thiel
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9212-1_53

The term “Chemolithotrophy” refers to the gain of energy for cell biosynthesis and maintenance from the oxidation of inorganic compounds (= electron donors), in the absence of light (Kelly and Wood, 2006). The process was first described by the Russian microbiologist Sergej Winogradsky (1887, 1888).

Chemolithotrophy is a strategy unique to some prokaryotes (i.e., Bacteria and Archaea), the so-called chemolithotrophs. Whereas there is no known macrofauna possessing the capability of chemolithotrophy, some animals such as particular tubeworms and bivalves can form symbioses with chemolithotrophs, (e.g., at cold seeps or in hydrothermal environments). There exist many inorganic electron donors that can fuel chemolithotrophs involving geologic, biologic, and anthropogenic sources. Reduced sulfur, nitrogen and iron species and hydrogen are the most common substrates (Table 1). If chemolithotrophs are able to use CO 2as their carbon source (most are) they are referred to as...


Carbon Source Electron Donor Anthropogenic Source Inorganic Compound Iron Species 
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  1. Kelly, D., and Wood, A. P., 2006. The chemolithotrophic prokaryotes. Prokaryotes, 2, 441–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Volker Thiel
    • 1
  1. 1.Geobiology Group Geoscience CenterUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany