Deep-sea mussels from a hybrid zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

The composition and diversity of animal microbiomes is shaped by a variety of factors, many of them interacting, such as host traits, the environment, and biogeography. Hybrid zones, in which the ranges of two host species meet and hybrids are found, provide natural experiments for determining the drivers of microbiome communities, but have not been well studied in marine environments. Here, we analysed the composition of the symbiont community in two deep-sea, Bathymodiolusmussel species along their known distribution range at hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with a focus on the hybrid zone where they interbreed. In-depth metagenomic analyses of the sulphur-oxidising symbionts of 30 mussels from the hybrid zone, at a resolution of single nucleotide polymorphism analyses of ~2500 orthologous genes, revealed that parental and hybrid mussels (F2–F4 generation) have genetically indistinguishable symbionts.


Fig: Phylogenetic relationships of Bathymodiolus SOX symbionts and their mussel hosts.

While host genetics does not appear to affect symbiont composition in these mussels, redundancy analyses showed that geographic location of the mussels on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge explained most of the symbiont genetic variability compared to the other factors. We hypothesise that geographic structuring of the free-living symbiont population plays a major role in driving the composition of the microbiome in these deep-sea mussels.

Ücker, M., Ansorge, R., Sato, Y. et al. Deep-sea mussels from a hybrid zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge host genetically indistinguishable symbionts. ISME J (2021).

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