Cold seeps in the deep sea harbor various animals that have adapted to utilize seepage chemicals with the aid of chemosynthetic microbes that serve as primary producers. Corals are among the animals that live near seep habitats and yet, there is a lack of evidence that corals gain benefits and/or incur costs from cold seeps. Here, we focused on Callogorgia delta and Paramuricea sp. type B3 that live near and far from visual signs of currently active seepage at five sites in the deep Gulf of Mexico. We tested whether these corals rely on chemosynthetically-derived food in seep habitats and how the proximity to cold seeps may influence; (i) coral colony traits (i.e., health status, growth rate, regrowth after sampling, and branch loss) and associated epifauna, (ii) associated microbiome, and (iii) host transcriptomes. Stable isotope data showed that many coral colonies utilized chemosynthetically derived food, but the feeding strategy differed by coral species. The microbiome composition of C. delta, unlike Paramuricea sp., varied significantly between seep and non-seep colonies and both coral species were associated with various sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SUP05). Interestingly, the relative abundances of SUP05 varied among seep and non-seep colonies and were strongly correlated with carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values. In contrast, the proximity to cold seeps did not have a measurable effect on gene expression, colony traits, or associated epifauna in coral species. Our work provides the first evidence that some corals may gain benefits from living near cold seeps with apparently limited costs to the colonies. Cold seeps provide not only hard substrate but also food to cold-water corals. Furthermore, restructuring of the microbiome communities (particularly SUP05) is likely the key adaptive process to aid corals in utilizing seepage-derived carbon. This highlights that those deep-sea corals may upregulate particular microbial symbiont communities to cope with environmental gradients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- General Environmental Science
- Environmental Chemistry