Nephtys hombergii, a free-living predator in marine sediments: energy production under environmental stress
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Nephtys hombergii is a free-living, burrowing predator in marine sediments. The worm is, therefore, exposed to various environmental conditions which tube-dwelling polychaetes of the same habitat most likely do not encounter. The worms have to survive periods of severe hypoxia and sulphide exposure, while at the same time, they have to maintain agility in order to feed on other invertebrates. N. hombergii is adapted to these conditions by utilising several strategies. The species has a remarkably high content of phosphagen (phosphoglycocyamine), which is the primary energy source during periods of environmental stress. With increasing hypoxia, energy is also provided via anaerobic glycolysis (pO2<7 kPa), with strombine as the main end-product. Energy production via the succinate pathway becomes important only under severe hypoxia (<2 kPa), suggesting a biphasic response to low oxygen conditions which probably is related to the worm's mode of life. The presence of sulphide resulted in a higher anaerobic energy flux and a more pronounced energy production via glycolysis than in anoxia alone. Nevertheless, after sulphide exposure under anaerobic conditions of <24 h, N. hombergii is able to recover completely. Although N. hombergii appears to be well adapted to a habitat with short-term fluctuations in oxygen and appearance of hydrogen sulphide, its high energy demand as a predator renders it likely to limit its survival in an environment with longer lasting anoxia and concomitant sulphide exposure.
KeywordsEnergy Production Marine Sediment Energy Flux Polychaete Hydrogen Sulphide
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