Variation in the diets of hydrothermal vent gastropods

TitleVariation in the diets of hydrothermal vent gastropods
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsGovenar, BW, Fisher, CR, Shank, TM
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
KeywordsHOV Alvin (Human Occupied Vehicle)

A prevailing paradigm of hydrothermal vent ecology is that primary consumers feed on chemoautotrophic bacteria. However, for the purposes of reconstructing vent food webs and for tracking energy flow from the generation of rock and fluid chemistry through primary/ secondary productivity and consumption to the overlying water column, it remains unclear which consumers feed on which bacteria. In paired analyses of carbon and nitrogen tissue stable isotope values with unique 16S rRNA sequences from the stomach contents, we determined that two species of gastropod grazers appear to feed on epsilon-proteobacteria, while two other species have more diverse diets, including one species that consumes alpha-proteobacteria, planctomycetes, and non-green sulfur bacteria. Different carbon fixation pathways used by epsilon- and alpha-proteobacteria may account for the variation in the carbon stable isotope values among the consumers. Furthermore, our results indicate that trophic specialization and niche partitioning may contribute to the distribution and abundance of vent-endemic gastropods and support the hypothesis that consumers in the warmer habitats commonly feed on epsilon-proteobacteria that use the rTCA cycle, while in the cooler habitats they feed on additional bacteria that use the CBB cycle. These results suggest that the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of free-living bacteria may play an important and previously overlooked role in facilitating species coexistence among primary consumers at hydrothermal vents and other chemosynthesis-based ecosystems.