Accumulation of prokaryotic remains during organic matter diagenesis in surface sediments off Peru

Lomstein, Bente Aa., Jutta Niggemann, Bo B. Jørgensen, Alice T. Langerhuus

Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(4), 2009, 1139-1151 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.4.1139

ABSTRACT: Bacterial biomarkers (D-amino acids and muramic acid) were investigated in surface sediments (0-1 cm) at 22 stations in the Peru margin. Concentrations were used to quantitatively estimate the relative importance of peptidoglycan in the preservation of prokaryotic remains during diagenesis. The bacterial imprint in organic matter was also evident from low molar ratios (average of 1.6) of glucosamine and galactosamine. Estimates of the fraction of biomarkers associated with intact peptidoglycan showed that peptidoglycan became a progressively less important component of prokaryotic remains with ongoing diagenesis, whereas other prokaryotic biomolecules increased in importance. The exact nature of these biomolecules remains unknown, but constant ratios between individual D-amino acids and amino sugars observed in this study provide novel information on their molecular composition. Examination of total hydrolyzable amino acids revealed systematic compositional changes with increasing water depth and age of the sediment, reflecting increased diagenetic alteration of the organic matter. The time scale integrated in the upper 1 cm of the sediment was ca. 2 yr at the shallow sites and up to 20 yr at the deeper stations. The alteration stages of organic matter ranged from coastal and ocean margin sediments at shallow water depth to organic matter as degraded as hemipelagic surface sediments at greater water depths.

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