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Congratulations: Dolma got her hat! (from left to right: Dr. Elizabeth Hambleton, Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier, Prof. Dr. Marcel Kuypers, Dolma Michellod, Dr. Manuel Liebeke) © Max Franke
Congratulations: Dolma got her hat! (from left to right: Dr. Elizabeth Hambleton, Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier, Prof. Dr. Marcel Kuypers, Dolma Michellod, Dr. Manuel Liebeke) © Max Franke
July 29, 2021

Congratulations to Dolma Michellod for a successful PhD defense!

Former doctoral researcher Dolma Michellod successfully defended her PhD thesis with the title "Investigating the lipid profile of animal-microbe s...

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Lucinid on the lookout: Lucinids are the most species rich and widely distributed family of marine bivalves hosting bacterial endosymbionts. In this picture, a large specimen of Ctena imbricatula is checking out its environment with its foot that it can enlarge ten times its body size.
(© Laetitia Wilkins)
Jul 12, 2021

Symbionts without borders: Bacterial partners travel the world

Symbiotic bacteria living in the gills of certain clams are true cosmopolitans.

This pandemic year has seen us confined to our homes and restricted from travelling the world. Not so for some microscopic bacteria in the ocean: T...

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3D CHEMHIST atlas or the posterior end of an earthworm, used in this study. The atlas combines data of mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and microtomography (micro-CT).
© Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology/PNAS ref.
Jun 29, 2021

The earthworm in new light

Even if they seem very common for us – earthworms are special because they keep our soil healthy, all over the world. From the outside they appear ...

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Congratulations: Merle Ücker got her hat. (© T. Enders)
Congratulations: Merle Ücker got her hat. (© T. Enders)
April 21, 2021

Congratulations to Merle Ücker for a successful PhD defense!

Former doctoral researcher Merle Ücker successfully defended her PhD thesis with the title "Metagenomic analyses of a deep-sea mussel symbiosis". C...

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Katharina Kitzinger
(© Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie / A. Esken)
Be­ne­dikt Gei­er
(© Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie)
Apr 14, 2021

Otto Hahn Medal for Katharina Kitzinger and Benedikt Geier

This year, two researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology are receiving the prestigious Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Soci...

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Sweet mar­ine particles res­ist hungry bac­teria
This Airyscan super-resolution image shows that fucose-containing sulphated polysaccharide, or FCSP, (in green) occurred around the cells of the chain-forming diatom Chaetoceros socialis and their spines. DAPI (blue) and diatom auto fluorescence (red). (© Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology/S. Vidal-Melgosa)
Feb 19, 2021

Sweet marine particles resist hungry bacteria

Rather sweet than salty: In the ocean microalgae produce a lot of sugar during algae blooms. These enormous quantities of algal biomass are normall...

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Picture: T. Enders
Picture: T. Enders
Jan 28, 2021

Congratulations to Målin Tietjen for a successful PhD defense!

Former doctoral researcher Målin Tietjen successfully defended her PhD thesis with the title "Phy­sio­lo­gy and eco­lo­gy of deep-sea Bathymodiolus...

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Picture: private
Picture: private
Nov 6, 2020

phyloFlash: New software allows fast and straightforward analysis of environmental microbes

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen are developing a user-friendly method to reconstruct and analyze SSU rRNA...

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Nicole Dubilier during her keynote speech on the occasion of the awarding of the Petersen Excellence Professorship. (Jan Steffen/GEOMAR)
Picture: Jan Steffen/GEOMAR
Sep 16, 2020

Petersen Excellence Professorship for our Director Nicole Dubilier

Marine biologist and symbiosis researcher Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, receiv...

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Jun 8, 2020

Science meets Culture

Marine researchers and Google Arts & Culture launch the online project "Into the Deep" to mark the UN World Day of the Oceans

In several online exhibitions, an international team of researchers, under the direction of cruise leader Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bohrmann from MARUM – C...

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Picture: Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Picture: Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

Congratulation to B. Geier for a successful PhD defense!

Former doctoral researcher Benedikt Geier successfully defended his PhD thesis with the title "Cor­re­la­ti­ve mass-spec­tro­me­try ima­ging of ani­mal-mi­cro­be sym­bio­sis". The whole department joined via Jitsi in times of Corona. Congratulations!
We look forward to see Benedikt soon when he continues working with us for his first PostDoc position.

Picture: B. Geier - Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Picture: B. Geier - Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Feb 3, 2020

The secret life of microbes – a snapshot of molecules in a deep-sea symbiosis

Mussels in the deep sea can only survive there thanks to symbiotic bacteria living inside of them. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Mari...

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Picture: MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen
Picture: MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen
Nov 18, 2019

Deep-sea bacteria copy their neighbors' diet

A new group of symbiotic bacteria living with deep-sea mussels surprises with the way they fix carbon.

A new group of symbiotic bacteria in deep-sea mussels surprises with the way they fix carbon: They use the Calvin cycle to turn carbon into tasty f...

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Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier erhält die 2019 PlyMSEF Medaille (Photo: Dr. Colin Munn)
Picture: C. Munn
Nov 5, 2019

2019 PlyMSEF Medal for Nicole Dubilier

Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, is awarded the medal for exceptional contributions to mari...

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Bathymodiolus-mussels and other inhabitants of hydrothermal vents at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge off the coast of the Azores.
Picture: MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen
Oct 14, 2019

Many cooks don't spoil the broth: Manifold symbionts prepare their host for any eventuality.

Deep-sea mussels, which cooperate with symbiotic bacteria for their food, harbor a surprisingly high diversity of these bacterial “cooks”: Up to 16...

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Check out the behind the paper blog post here!

The same species of Kentrophoros stained with a fluorescent dye that stains its DNA green. The three bright spots in the middle are the three cell nuclei of the eukaryotic host. The green "haze" elsewhere are the tightly-packed bacterial symbiont cells, too small to be individually distinguished in this image.
Picture: B. Seah
June 25, 2019

Symbiotic upcycling: Turning “low value” compounds into biomass

Scientists discover the first known sulfur-oxidizing symbiont to be entirely heterotrophic.

Kentron, a bacterial symbiont of ciliates, turns cellular waste products into biomass. It is the first known sulfur-oxidizing symbiont to be entire...

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World in a water drop
Picture: A. Esken
June 15, 2019

Open Campus 2019: We're in!

The University of Bremen invites interested people in and around Bremen to the OPEN CAMPUS on June 15th 2019!


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Looks like a potato chip: Trichoplax under the microscope. (© Harald Gruber-Vodicka / Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology)
Picture: H. Gruber-Vodicka
June 10, 2019

Deceptively simple: Minute marine animals live in a sophisticated symbiosis with bacteria

Microbial dark matter lives in one of the simplest animals, Trichoplax

Trichoplax, one of the simplest animals on Earth, lives in a highly specific and intimate symbiosis with two types of bacteria. The first, Grellia,...

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Check out the behind-the-paper blog post here.

Linh Nguyen and Benedikt Geier with their awards
Pictures: B. Geier

Best Student Presentation Award for scientist Benedikt Geier

Benedikt Geier, PhD student in the Department of Symbiosis, was awarded the Best Student Presentation Award at the 35th Annual Meeting of the ISCE (International Society of Chemical Ecology) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. At the meeting, Geier presented his research about spatial metabolomics of in situ, host-microbe interactions. With his method, he combines untargeted metabolite imaging with fluorescence labeling. More information about the study can be found here:

The scientific crew of PS119 on the helicopter deck of RV POLARSTERN. Photo: Felix Kentges
Picture: F. Kentges
May 31st, 2019

The last week at sea - Polarstern expedition PS119 is coming to an end

After eight weeks at sea, the Polarstern will return to the Falkland Islands. We look forward to welcome back our group members when they return to...

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The Po­larstern in the Cum­ber­land Bay of South Geor­gia. Photo: vdl
Picture: vdl
April 11, 2019

MARUM scientists explore hot vents and cold seeps in the Southern Ocean

Where the Earth’s plates meet, there is evidence of their motion. An expedition of the Research Vessel POLARSTERN will explore this activity in the...

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Two scientist from the Symbiosis Department are part of the Polarstern expedition. They will investigate whether Bathymodiolus mussels also live at hot vents and cold seeps in the Southern Ocean.
More information about the expedition, including weekly reports, can be found here.


Picture: O. Jäckle
April 8, 2019

Excellent catering: How a bacterium feeds an entire flatworm

In the sandy bottom of warm coastal waters lives Paracatenula – a small worm that has neither mouth, nor gut. Nevertheless, it lacks nothing thanks...

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Best Talk Prize at the 24th Graduate Meeting on Evolutionary Biology of the German Zoological Society
Picture: M. Ücker

Scientist Merle Ücker wins Best Talk Prize

Merle Ücker, a PhD student from the Department of Symbiosis, was awarded the Best Talk Prize at the 24th Graduate Meeting on Evolutionary Biology of the German Zoological Society. Topic of the meeting was "Hybridisation" and Ücker presented her results of an ongoing project investigating symbiosis in a mussel hybrid zone.

A wide view of a field with a number of areas of diffuse flow, some noted by several small (<1m tall) chimneys. Picture: ROV SuBastian / SOI
Picture: ROV SuBastian / SOI

Scientist Christian Borowski joins an expedition on RV Falkor from the Schmidt Ocean Institute starting and ending in Manzanillo (Mexico). Under chief scientist Mandy Joye, he will investigate the Guyamas and other basins with vents in the Gulf of Mexico. We wish him a good time at sea and many Bathymodiolus mussels!

You can find the cruise log here.

Awardee Benedikt Geier and Manuel Liebeke, MPIMM
Picture: F. Aspetsberger
November 23, 2018

Scientist Benedikt Geier wins the MSI Award @ImaBiotech

Benedikt Geier, PhD student in the Department of Symbiosis at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, was awarded this year's MSI Award f...

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MPIMM at Maritime Meile
Picture: MPI Press Team

Forschungsmeile 2019: Auch wir sind wieder dabei!

Vom 20. bis 22. September ist wieder Zeit für die Maritime Woche entlang der Weserpromenade Schlachte!
Wie auch in den letzten Jahren werden wir mi...

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Dr. Maggie Sogin, this year’s winner of ISME’s Tom Brock Award.
Picture: MPI Press Team
August 30, 2018

Scientist Maggie Sogin wins the Tom Brock Award

Dr. (Emilia) Maggie Sogin, PostDoc in the Symbiosis Department at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, was awarded this year’s Tom Bro...

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Symbionts at ISME17
Pictures: M. Ücker

The Department of Symbiosis at the ISME17 in Leipzig

10 symbionts had the chance to attend the 17th International Symposium for Marine Microbiolgy in Leipzig. PhD Students Rebecca Ansorge and Oliver Jäckle as well as Post-Doc Maggie Sogin were given the opportunity to present their research in a talk. Benedikt Geier and Anna Mankowski were among the first to give a poster pitch, a new format at this conference. All members of the Department of Symbiosis enjoyed their poster presentations, networking and learning about microbial research at the beautiful Congress Center Leipzig. We look forward to ISME18 in Cape Town!


Congress Center Leipzig

YouTuber DoktorWhatson at the Department of Symbiosis

PhD candidate Rebecca Ansorge answers some curious questions from the YouTuber DoktorWhatson about deep-sea research and chemosynthetic symbioses - check out the video (German only)!

Participants of the second It MaTer(s) - Max Planck PhD Conference for Environmental Microbiology

Poster prize for Maximilian Franke at the "It MaTer(s) - Second Max Planck PhD Conference for Environmental Microbiology"

PhD candidates Anna Mankowski, Dolma MichellodMaximilian Franke and Tina Enders successfully participated at the second Max Planck PhD Conference for Environmental Microbiology (It MaTer(s)). The conference is organized by PhD students from the MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg and the MPI for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and encourages students to present their research as well as network and brainstorm with junior scientists from another institute.

Maximilian Franke won the poster prize with his poster "Tracking the development of deep sea mussels during colonization by their symbionts" - congratulations!

Great thanks to the organizing committee for the interesting conference!

Port of Suva
Picture: M. Ücker
June 28, 2018

Expedition SO263 TongaRift coming to an end

After four weeks on sea collecting almost 300 mussels, the researchers are looking forward to setting foot on land again.

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Let the dissection begin!
Picture: C. Kleint
June 13, 2018

Expedition SO263: Mussel mania!

PhD students Merle Ücker and Miguel Ángel Gónzalez Porras, currently on board the reserch vessel SONNE, were excited by the densely packed mussel f...

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View on research vessel SONNE from the mast
Picture: M. Ücker
June 1, 2018

Expedition SO263 TongaRift started

The research vessel SONNE left the port of Suva, Fiji in direction Tonga. On board are scientists of different disciplines, including PhD students ...

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Naturhistoriska riksmuseet
Pictures: M. Franke

Baby-Bathys in NORDSIM lab, Stockholm

Great news: Maximilian Franke, working on "baby" Bathymodiolus mussels, got mearuement time at the NORDSIM lab of the Naturhistoriska riksmuseet in Stockholm. The analyses will give further insight into the trophic mode of Bathymodiolus mussel in early developmental stages.

EMBO logo
May 14, 2018

Nicole Dubilier elected as EMBO member

Today EMBO announced the election of Nicole Dubilier as a new member. 
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Maritime Meile 2
Picture: MPI Press Team

Getting people interested in the tiniest inhabitants in water

Two of our department members supported the press team on the weekend representing the MPI for Marine Microbiology at Maritime Meile 2017, Bremen. PhD students Anna Mankowski and Tina Enders assisted visitors to examine water samples from the Weser under the microscope and gave insights into our work in the world of marine microbes.




Deep-Sea Habitat
Picture: P. Girguis and the Schmidt Ocean Institute

Chemosynthetic symbioses in the spotlight

Our research is featured in Science - click here to read the article!

Book cover

Book presentation: "Klüger nutzen – besser schützen: Bremer Forschung an tropis­chen Küsten"

Oliver Jäckle will read his chapter "Mund- und darmlos in den Sedimenten mariner Tropen – Symbiose macht’s möglich" from a new book published by the Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Topenforschung - ZMT. 
The reading is in German and will take place on September 18, 2017 at 18:00 on board of the ship Oceana at Weserpromenade Anleger 9 in Bremen. For directions how to get there, search for "Hinter der Mauer 8-9" in Google. Further information about the different piers can be found here:  Schlachte brochure. Come over to hear some interesting facts about symbiosis in tropical sediments!

Also check out the Maritime Woche 2017

Foundation of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology 25 years ago
September 14, 2017

25 Years of Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

With a scientific symposium our institute celebrates its first quarter of a century.
SAME15 conference

Department of Symbiosis at the SAME15

PhD student Oliver Jäckle is presenting his research about symbionts in Paracatenula at the SAME15 – 15th Symposium on Aquatic Microbial Ecology today! Enjoy!

Phylogenetic tree of Candidatus Thioglobus thermophilus and related free-living and host-associated sulfur oxidizers.
Phylogenetic tree of Candidatus Thioglobus thermophilus and related free-living and host-associated sulfur oxidizers.

New publication about symbiosis in Bathymodiolus mussels is out!

A new symbiont genome has been published with participation of Lizbeth Sayavedra from our group!
Check out the paper to find out more about sulfur-oxidising symbionts in deep-sea mussel B. thermophilus!

Friedrich Hirzebruch Prize awarded to Manuel Kleiner

January 2014: Manuel Kleiner, Postdoc in the Department of Symbiosis, received the Friedrich Hirzebruch Prize of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Academic Foundation) for his PhD thesis “Metabolism and evolutionary ecology of chemosynthetic symbionts from marine invertebrates”. The Friedrich Hirzebruch Prize is awarded once a year for an outstanding PhD thesis in the fields of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Engineering. The official award ceremony will be on May 19 2014 in Berlin.

Poster prize for PhD student Adrien Assie

The Young Researchers in Life Science conference takes place every year at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The conference brings together participants from diverse disciplines and topics, for a program which includes poster and oral presentations by young researchers, chaired and judged by senior scientists. This year the third prize for poster presentations was won by Adrien Assié for his poster "Diving into the genome of deep-sea intranuclear bacteria". Congratulations Adrien!

ERC Advanced Grant awarded to Nicole Dubilier

Prof. Nicole Dubilier, Director of the Symbiosis Department, has been awarded a prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council. The Grant will support her research on deep-sea Bathymodiolus symbioses with 2.5 Million Euros over five years. With this funding, Nicole aims to show the central role that symbiosis plays in the world's oceans, particularly in habitats such as the deep sea where resources for animal life are extremely limited.

For more information see our press release (only in German).

Nicole Dubilier appointed Director at the Max Planck Institute in Bremen

For more information see our press release.

Leibniz Award for Nicole Dubilier

For more information see our press release (only in German) and the press release of the DFG.

Nicole Dubilier was elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology

February 2013: Nicole Dubilier was elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology (see link). Fellows of the Academy are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

Symbiosis Group leader receives prestigious investigator award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

December 3, 2012 – Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and MARUM of the University of Bremen, Germany, received the prestigious Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative investigator award today. She is one of only 16 scientists selected through an open competition, and the only researcher from an institute outside of the USA. The award will provide 200,000 – 500,000 US dollars per year over five years to pursue pioneering research in the field of marine microbial ecology. The Marine Microbiology Initiative investigators were chosen through an extensive review process that considered over 180 applications. Awardees demonstrated creativity, innovation and potential to make major, new breakthroughs. “We’re providing some of the Louis Pasteurs of this field with additional, flexible funding—above and beyond that which they may already be receiving—to give them more freedom to pursue bold, new discoveries”, said Steve McCormick, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

For more information about the Initiative see here.
Click here to see the Max Planck Society press release.

A toxic menu - Marine worm feeds on carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide with the help of symbiotic bacteria

In a study that we published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science we show that a small marine worm, faced with a scarce food supply in the sandy sediments it lives in off the coast of Elba, must deal with a highly poisonous menu: this worm lives on carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.

The worm, Olavius algarvensis, can thrive on these poisons thanks to millions of symbiotic bacteria that live under its skin. They use the energy from carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide to produce food for the worm. Read more

Original article (open access)
Nature Research Highlight
Die Zeit
Science Daily

From bits of science: "O. algarvensis and its symbionts can thrive in surroundings where other organisms would surely perish. In that it makes for a nice metaphore. Sometimes solid cooperation can turn even the most toxic situations into something productive."

Interview with Nicole Dubilier at the 'Frontiers in the Life Sciences' Symposium at Cornell University in April 2012

Nicole Dubilier was interviewed about her career and mentoring at a recent event celebrating the achievements of women in the life sciences at Cornell University - Frontiers in the Life Sciences. Find the interview here.

Our proposal to the 2011 Community Sequencing Program of the DOE Joint Genome Institute has been approved!

The proposal of Nicole Dubilier, together with two PhD students from the Symbiosis Group, Manuel Kleiner and Cecilia Wentrup, to the 2011 Community Sequencing Program of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (USA) was approved! The goal of the project, titled ''Understanding novel pathways for energy and carbon use in bacterial symbionts of gutless marine worms" is to sequence the genomes of 20 different symbionts from gutless marine oligochaetes.

Film about our research cruise with the RV Meteor to the Menez Gwen hydrothermal vent

Nicole Dubilier was the Chief Scientist of a MARUM-funded cruise to the Menez Gwen hydrothermal vent field on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in 2010. A movie with highlights from the cruise was shown in the popular science magazine "W wie Wissen" of the nationwide TV channel 'Das Erste' on Sunday, October 23rd, 2011. Click here to watch.

Symbiosis Group member wins the Wolf Vishniac Award

Jillian Petersen, a Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Symbiosis Group, received the Wolf Vishniac Award for best presentation by a young investigator at the 20th International Symposium for Environmental Biogeochemistry in Istanbul, Turkey. Click here for more infomation about the conference, "Frontiers in Biogeochemistry".

Hydrogen highway in the deep sea

Symbiosis Group researchers discover hydrogen-powered symbiotic bacteria in deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussels.

The search for new energy sources to power mankind’s increasing needs is currently a topic of immense interest. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are considered one of the most promising clean energy alternatives. While intensive research efforts have gone into developing ways to harness hydrogen energy to fuel our everyday lives, a natural example of a living hydrogen-powered ‘fuel cell’ has gone unnoticed. During a recent expedition to hydrothermal vents in the deep sea, researchers from the Symbiosis Group discovered mussels that have their own on-board ‘fuel cells’, in the form of symbiotic bacteria that use hydrogen as an energy source. Their results, which appear as the cover story in the August 11th issue of Nature, suggest that the ability to use hydrogen as a source of energy is widespread in hydrothermal vent symbioses.

Original article
News and Views article by Victoria Orphan and Tori Hoehler

This paper was reported in:
- Faculty of 1000
- Nature PodCast
- ScienceDaily
- Microbe World BacterioFiles
- German evening news (ZDF Heute Journal, beginning at ~23 minutes)
- German science radio (DRadio Wissen - "Wasserstoff als Energiequelle")
- Numerous German and international newspapers (e.g. Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, SpiegelOnline, msnbc)
- Science blogs (e.g. Jonathan Eisen's The Tree of Life)

Interview with Nicole Dubilier at ASM 2011 in New Orleans

Nicole Dubilier was interviewed in Episode #8 of the podcast This Week in Microbiology live from the 2011 ASM General Meeting in New Orleans and describes her research on symbioses between chemosynthetic bacteria and marine invertebrates. Find the interview here.

Symbiosis Group member wins regional FameLab competition

Dennis Fink, PhD student in the Symbiosis Group since 2009, joined the regional competition called FameLab in Hamburg and won first prize for his talk on symbiosis in the deep sea. Watch his 3-minute talk in the Hamburg final here, or listen to a radio interview with radioeins for more details.

News from our cruise to the Azores

We travelled on board the german research vessel FS METEOR to hydrothermal vents in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, close to the Azores Islands. There we conducted our research on the deep-sea underwater volcano Menez Gwen.

Read the blog written by Dr. Nicole Dubilier and watch videos by Dennis Fink on the news pages of the Hamburger Abendblatt. The english versions of the videos can be found here.

Article in the Max Planck Journal


Do Mediterranean tubeworms like it hot?

First discovery of tubeworms at hydrothermal vents outside of the Pacific Ocean
Christian Lott, Judith Zimmermann
In July 2006, a film team led by the renowned underwater documentarist Sigurd Tesche made a striking discovery during a cruise with the French research vessel MINIBEX: around one of the peaks of Europe’s biggest underwater volcanoes, the Marsili Seamount north of Sicily, they discovered deep-sea tubeworms. Singly, in bunches, and in thickets of hundreds of tubeworms, with lengths of up to half a meter. With the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) SUPER ACHILLE they video surveyed some hundred square meters of the seamount at depths between 500 and 600 meters. The main tubeworm field was on a small terrace of about 15 by 30 m<sup>2</sup> on the otherwise steep basalt cliffs. The terrace was covered with fine beige sediment, interspersed with fist size and smaller fragments of basalt. Diffuse fluid venting was visible with a greyish-blue to black centre and a white halo of filamentous bacteria, resembling mats of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. As the cruise was focussed on filming, no samples were taken.
The discovery of tubeworms at a hydrothermal vent in the Mediterranean is exciting because only vents in the Pacific Ocean are known to be colonized by tubeworms. In other oceans such as the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, mussels, shrimp, and snails dominate the vent communities, but so far, no tubeworms have been found at vents outside of the Pacific. In the Atlantic and Mediterranean, tubeworms are only known from cold seeps in the Caribbean, along the continental margins of America and Africa and in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. The Marsili tubeworms resemble the Lamellibrachia-like Vestimentifera, a group known almost exclusively from cold sulfide-rich deep-sea environments like gas seeps, mud volcanoes and continental margins. But on the flanks of an active volcano and in the Western Mediterranean where no tubeworms have yet been found?
In July 2009 Sigurd Tesche invited us to join his next filming cruise to the Strait of Messina and, weather permitting, to collect tubeworms at the Marsili seamount. After a rough ride on the MINIBEX from Marseille to the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea through strong winds of 8 Bft we were extremely lucky to find the sea above the Marsili Seamount completely calm and it took only 20 minutes to find the tubeworm site with the ROV. Over the next two days we collected numerous tubeworms as well as fluid samples for biogeochemical and microbial analyses. These samples are now being investigated in our labs. Miriam Weber from the Microsensor Group is comparing data from biogeochemical analyses of the water samples and in situ microsensor measurements with video surveys of the Marsili vent to better understand how the fluids support the microbial and animal communities. Judith Zimmermann from the Symbiosis Group is using molecular methods to characterize the tubeworms and their bacterial symbionts as well as the free-living bacteria from the water samples. And we are all placing bets on whom the tubeworms will be most closely related to: their cold seep relatives from the Mediterranean or their hot vent relatives from the Pacific.
Collection of tubeworms
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