2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
Paper No. 231-1
Presentation Time: 8:10 AM-8:30 AM


BERNHARD, Joan M.1, EDGCOMB, Virginia P.1, CASCIOTTI, Karen L.2, MCILVIN, Matthew R.3, and BEAUDOIN, David J.4, (1) Geology & Geophysics Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, jbernhard@whoi.edu, (2) Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, (3) Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, (4) Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543

The process of denitrification (conversion of nitrate to gaseous compounds, including N2) removes bioavailable nitrogen, particularly in marine sediments, making it a key process in the marine nitrogen budget. Benthic foraminifera reportedly perform complete denitrification, a process previously considered nearly exclusively performed by bacteria and archaea. If the ability to denitrify is widespread among these diverse and abundant protists, a paradigm shift is required for marine biogeochemistry and microbial ecology with implications reverberating to paleoecology and paleontology. However, the mechanisms of foraminiferal denitrification are unclear: it is possible that the ability to perform complete denitrification is due to symbiont metabolism in some foraminiferal species. Using a variety of experimental, ecological, microscopic, molecular, and chemical methods, we analyzed 5 foraminiferal species (Bolivina argentea, Buliminella tenuata, Nonionella stella, Fursenkoina cornuta, undescribed allogromiid) to glean details on foraminiferal denitrification. During experiments including oxic, anoxic, and suboxic treatments (either with or without antibiotics), intracellular nitrate concentrations decreased while a general increase in δ15N-NO3- occurred, indicating nitrate respiration and/or denitrification. Where measurable, nitrogen isotopic data from freshly collected specimens suggest nitrate consumption occurs within foraminifera in situ. The genes nirS and nirK, which are involved with dissimilatory nitrite reduction, were also detected. Overall, results suggest that denitrification occurs in a range of foraminiferal species, including some lacking endobionts and some possessing endobionts, implying that microbial associates may be involved with but are not solely responsible for denitrification in foraminifera. The apparent widespread ability of foraminifera to denitrify suggests a biogeochemistry/microbial ecology paradigm shift must be considered, as suggested by earlier authors. If the ability of foraminifera to denitrify is an ancient trait, this early evolving protist taxon likely competed well in Neoproterozoic ecosystems potentially allowing diversification into all marine habitats. Supported by NSF grant MCB-0702491.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 231
Frontiers in Foraminiferal Research I: Biology/Ecology/Paleoecology
Minneapolis Convention Center: Room 200H-J
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 554

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