Serpentinization is the aqueous alteration of ultramafic rocks, characteristic of the Earth’s mantle, and results in the generation of highly-reducing, hydrogen- and methane- rich fluids with extremely high pH’s (commonly greater than 11). Microbial communities hosted within serpentinites may be important mediators of carbon and energy exchange between the deep Earth and the surface biosphere. Actively serpentinizing rocks are present on all of the world’s continents, comprise significant portions of the deep seafloor, generate large quantities of geochemical energy, and yet are some of the most poorly understood portions of the biosphere. By studying community genomes in the context of detailed environmental data, researchers expect to resolve physiological adaptations to the serpentinite microbiome, with implications for both culturing approaches and practical applications such as carbon capture and storage and alternative energy.
PI: Schrenk, Matthew