Deep Sea Fungi


Cape Evans Dive Site 2010Dive Hole Drill 2010DivingFlag at Cape Evens WallObservation TubePices V SubmarineIMG 1463IMG 2358Pices V SubmarineSea FanIron Rich Microbial MatsSea Floor FormationsIron Rich Microbial Mats-Vailulu'u is an active undersea volcano in the Samoan chain that has iron-rich mats teeming with microbial extremophiles!Dive Hole Drill AugerDive Hole DrillingStarfishSponges and Sea FloorSponges and Sea FloorSea Ice Brine Channels

 Relatively little is known about the diversity of microbial communities in deep ocean substrates. Even less is known about the unique assemblages of microfungi associated with iron-oxide mats produced by active volcanic venting. Generally, the role of eukaryotes in these settings remains largely unknown. We explored the presence of fungi in actively growing Fe-oxide mats (Fig. 2 below) and basalt rock surfaces from the active volcano, Vailulu’u seamount (Samoan chain). Vailulu'u rises at the eastern end of the of the Samoan islands to a depth of 593 m. Two samples were collected by the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab's - Pices V submersible (Fig. 1 at right) via suction sample at active venting sites. Another sample was an "exposure treatment" in which sterile basalt was placed outside the volcanic crater and recovered 3 months later for comparison.

Subsequent culture of recovered samples yielded a diverse fungal community including eight yeasts and yeast-like fungal species. Many of the isolates produce siderophores, a class of molecules used to acquire and utilize Fe (III), and one isolate, Rhodotorula graminis oxidizes Mn(II). These results suggest that fungi may also play a functional role in seafloor alteration and biomineralization processes. This effort is the the first investigation that focuses on identification of fungal diversity in seafloor hydrothermal vents and future work will help elucidate the biogeochemical roles of fungi in this unique and extreme environment. 

Adapted from:

Connell, LB, Barrett A, Templeton A and Staudigel H. (2009) Fungal diversity associated with an active deep sea volcano: Vailulu'u Seamount, Samoa', Geomicrobiology Journal, 26: 8, 597-605 [VIEW PDF]


2012 Dive Season

Footage from the 2012 dive season provided by Henry Kaiser.


Check out our Deep Sea Fungi Photo Gallery:


The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory - Pices V sub supports deep sea research efforts in the Pacific region.


Relevant Literature:

  1. Connell, LB, Barrett A, Templeton A and Staudigel H. (2009) Fungal diversity associated with an active deep sea volcano: Vailulu'u Seamount, Samoa', Geomicrobiology Journal, 26: 8, 597-605 [VIEW PDF]
  2. Gadanho Mr, Sampaio JP. 2005. Occurrence and diversity of yeasts in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal fields near the Azores Archipelago. Microb Ecol 50:408–417.
  3. Staudigel H, Hart SR, Pile A, Bailey BE, Baker ET, Brook S, Connelly DP, Hauck L, German CR, Hudson I, Jones D, Kopper AAP, Konter J, Lee R, Pietsch TW, Tebo BM, Templeton AS, Zierenberg R, Young CM. 2006. Vailulu’u Seamount, Samoa: Life and death on an active submarine volcano. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:6448–6453.
  4. Templeton AS, Staudigel H, Tebo BM. 2005. Diverse Mn(II)-oxidizing bacteria isolated from submarine basalts at Loihi seamount. Geomicrobiol J 22:127–139.


Projects funded by:

The National Science Foundation - The Agouron Foundation


©  2012, Laurie Connell - University of Maine - A Member of the University of Maine System