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Microorganisms 2016, 4(3), 24; doi:10.3390/microorganisms4030024

Enrichment of Fusobacteria in Sea Surface Oil Slicks from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

1
School of Life Sciences, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK
2
Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
3
Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, Division of Microbial Ecology, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria
4
Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Johannes F. Imhoff
Received: 15 April 2016 / Revised: 14 July 2016 / Accepted: 20 July 2016 / Published: 27 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity and Dynamics of Marine Microbial Communities)
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Abstract

The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill led to rapid microbial community shifts in the Gulf of Mexico, including the formation of unprecedented quantities of marine oil snow (MOS) and of a massive subsurface oil plume. The major taxa that bloomed in sea surface oil slicks during the spill included Cycloclasticus, and to a lesser extent Halomonas, Alteromonas, and Pseudoalteromonas—organisms that grow and degrade oil hydrocarbons aerobically. Here, we show that sea surface oil slicks at DWH contained obligate and facultative anaerobic taxa, including members of the obligate anaerobic phylum Fusobacteria that are commonly found in marine sediment environments. Pyrosequencing analysis revealed that Fusobacteria were strongly selected for when sea surface oil slicks were allowed to develop anaerobically. These organisms have been found in oil-contaminated sediments in the Gulf of Mexico, in deep marine oil reservoirs, and other oil-contaminated sites, suggesting they have putative hydrocarbon-degrading qualities. The occurrence and strong selection for Fusobacteria in a lab-based incubation of a sea surface oil slick sample collected during the spill suggests that these organisms may have become enriched in anaerobic zones of suspended particulates, such as MOS. Whilst the formation and rapid sinking of MOS is recognised as an important mechanism by which a proportion of the Macondo oil had been transported to the sea floor, its role in potentially transporting microorganisms, including oil-degraders, from the upper reaches of the water column to the seafloor should be considered. The presence of Fusobacteria on the sea surface—a highly oxygenated environment—is intriguing, and may be explained by the vertical upsurge of oil that provided a carrier to transport these organisms from anaerobic/micro-aerophilic zones in the oil plume or seabed to the upper reaches of the water column. We also propose that the formation of rapidly-sinking MOS may have re-transported these, and other microbial taxa, to the sediment in the Gulf of Mexico. View Full-Text
Keywords: biodegradation; Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Gulf of Mexico; marine bacteria; Fusobacteria; obligate anaerobes; marine oil snow; pyrosequencing biodegradation; Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Gulf of Mexico; marine bacteria; Fusobacteria; obligate anaerobes; marine oil snow; pyrosequencing
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Gutierrez, T.; Berry, D.; Teske, A.; Aitken, M.D. Enrichment of Fusobacteria in Sea Surface Oil Slicks from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Microorganisms 2016, 4, 24.

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