An increasing number of deep-sea studies have highlighted the importance of deep-sea biofouling, especially in relation to the protection of deep-sea instruments. In this study, the microbial communities developed on different substrata (titanium, aluminum, limestone, shale and neutrino telescope glass) exposed for 155 days at different depths (1500 m, 2500 m, 3500 m and 4500 m) and positions (vertical and horizontal) in the Eastern Mediterranean Deep Sea were compared. Replicated biofilm samples were analyzed using a Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms (T-RFLP) method. The restriction enzymes CfoI and RsaI produced similar total numbers (94, 93) of different T-RFLP peaks (T-RFs) along the vertical transect. In contrast, the mean total T-RF number between each sample according to substratum type and depth was higher in more samples when CfoI was used. The total species richness (S) of the bacterial communities differed significantly between the substrata, and depended on the orientation of each substratum within one depth and throughout the water column (ANOVA). T-RFLP analyses using the Jaccard similarity index showed that within one depth layer, the composition of microbial communities on different substrata was different and highly altered among communities developed on the same substratum but exposed to fouling at different depths. Based on Multidimensional Scaling Analyses (MDS), the study suggests that depth plays an important role in the composition of deep-sea biofouling communities, while substratum type and orientation of substrata throughout the water column are less important. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study of biofilm development in deep waters, in relation to the effects of substratum type, orientation and depth.
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