Trophic specialisation of metazoan meiofauna at the Håkon Mosby Mud Volcano: fatty acid biomarker isotope evidence
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We report the results of a detailed investigation on the trophoecology of two dominant meiofaunal species at the Håkon Mosby Mud Volcano (HMMV), a deep-sea cold methane-venting seep. Analyses of fatty acids (FAs) and their stable carbon isotopes were used to determine the importance of chemosynthetic nutritional pathways for the dominant copepod species (morphologically very similar to Tisbe wilsoni) inhabiting the volcano’s centre and the abundant nematode Halomonhystera disjuncta from the surrounding microbial mats. The strong dominance of bacterial biomarkers (16:1ω7c, 18:1ω7c and 16:1ω8c) coupled with their individual light carbon isotopes signatures (δ13C ranging from −52 to −81‰) and the lack of symbiotic relationships with prokaryotes (as revealed by molecular analyses and fluorescent in situ hybridisation) indicated that chemosynthetically derived carbon constitutes the main diet of both species. However, the copepod showed a stronger reliance on the utilisation of methanotrophic bacteria and contained polyunsaturated FAs of bacterial origin (20:5ω3 and 22:6ω3 with isotope signatures δ13C < −80‰). Instead, the FA profiles of H. disjuncta suggested that sulphide-oxidising bacteria constituted the main diet of this nematode. Therefore, HMMV can be regarded as a persistent deep-sea cold seep, allowing a chemosynthesis-based trophic specialisation by the dominant meiofaunal species inhabiting its sediments. The present investigation, through the determination of the fatty acid profiles, provides the first evidence for trophic specialisation of meiofauna associated with sub-habitats within a cold seep.
KeywordsMeiofauna Cold Seep Carbon Isotope Signature Trophic Specialisation Compound Specific Stable Isotope Analysis
The authors thank IFREMER (France) for providing sampling facilities on board of the RV “PourquoiPas?”, as well as the captain, crew and chief scientist, Hervé Nouzé, for their efforts during the VICKING campaign in 2006. We express our sincere gratitude to Lennart van IJzerloo, Ronald Rutgers and Pieter van Rijswijk for assistance with chemical analysis and to Massimiliano Molari, Elena Manini and Gian Marco Luna for support with the molecular analyses. We are also indebted to Prof. Dr. Gaetan Borgonie and Myriam Claeys for the transmission electron microscopy work on the nematodes. This research was supported by the GOA fund from Ghent University, the 6th FP HERMES, the FWO project “Cold Seeps” nr. G034607, MARBEF (Network of Excellence), and the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research. This publication is contribution number MPS-09004 of MarBEF (Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning).
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