MEPS 302:121-134 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps302121

Development of macrofaunal community structure in mussel beds on the northern East Pacific Rise

J. C. Dreyer1,2, K. E. Knick1,2, W. B. Flickinger1, C. L. Van Dover1,*

1Biology Department, The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia 23187, USA
2Present address: Virginia Institute of Marine Science, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Comparisons of macrofaunal community structure (species composition, abundance, biovolume, rank order, species richness, diversity) in hydrothermal vent mussel beds at 9°50’N (9N) on the East Pacific Rise were made from analysis of multiple quantitative samples collected in 1999 and 2001 from each of 3 mussel beds of known age (4 to 8 yr in 1999). In addition to this time series approach, a chronosequence based on 2001 samples from 4 mussel beds at 9N and 1 mussel bed at 11°25’N (11N) allowed comparison of macrofaunal community structure for mussel beds ranging in age from 6 to >14 yr. Many aspects of community structure (rank abundance patterns, dominant species, and diversity) were similar in 1999 and 2001 samples. Young (6 to 7 yr) and old (10 to 14 yr) mussel beds sampled in 2001 could be distinguished using multivariate analyses, based on species abundance and species biovolume matrices, but the differences were in the relative abundance of the dominant species rather than in any substantial changes in the identity of the dominant species. The limpet Lepetodrilus elevatus was the dominant species at all sites in terms of abundance and biovolume; it and other dominant species may have slightly greater fitness compared to other species that allows them to persist as dominants regardless of the age or location of mussel beds. Decreasing biovolume of macrofaunal communities sampled at 9N and 11N in 2001 was correlated with increasing age of the mussel beds and is postulated to be largely a response to biological processes; including competition for inorganic substrates by free living and symbiotic chemoautotrophs and mussel induced mortality of larvae of macrofaunal species, rather than the result of waning hydrothermal activity.

KEY WORDS: Hydrothermal vent · Chemosynthetic community · Succession · Chronosequence · Diversity · Abundance · Biomass

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