Characterization of symbiont populations in life-history stages of mussels from chemosynthetic environments

Jennifer L. Salerno, Stephen A. Macko, Steve J. Hallam, Monika Bright, Yong Jin Won, Zoe McKiness, Cindy L. Van Dover

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59 Scopus citations


The densities of chemoautotrophic and methanotrophic symbiont morphotypes were determined in life-history stages (post-larvae, juveniles, adults) of two species of mussels (Bathymodiolus azoricus and B. heckerae) from deep-sea chemosynthetic environments (the Lucky Strike hydrothermal vent and the Blake Ridge cold seep) in the Atlantic Ocean. Both symbiont morphotypes were observed in all specimens and in the same relative proportions, regardless of life-history stage. The relative abundance of symbiont morphotypes, determined by transmission electron microscopy, was different in the two species: chemoautotrophs were dominant (13:1-18:1) in B. azoricus from the vent site; methanotrophs were dominant (2:1-3:1) in B. heckerae from the seep site. The ratio of CH4:H2S is proposed as a determinant of the relative abundance of symbiont types: where CH4:H2S is less than 1, as at the Lucky Strike site, chemoautotrophic symbionts dominate; where CH4:H2S is greater than 2, as at the seep site, methanotrophs dominate. Organic carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of B. azoricus (δ13C = -30‰; δ15N = -9‰) and B. heckerae (δ13C = -56‰; δ15N = -2‰) varied little among life-history stages and provided no record of a larval diet of photosynthetically derived organic material in the post-larval and juvenile stages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005


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