MEPS 359:161-170 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07344

Trophic ecology of siphonostomatoid copepods at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the northeast Pacific

H. Limén1,3,*, C. J. Stevens1,4, Z. Bourass2, S. K. Juniper1,5

1Centre GÉOTOP-UQÀM-McGill, Université du Québec à Montréal, CP 8888 Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8, Canada
2Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke St. W., Montréal, Québec H4B 1R6, Canada
3Present address: Research Service, The Swedish Parliament, 100 12 Stockholm, Sweden
4Present address: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Private Bag 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand
5Present address: School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Department of Biology, University of Victoria, PO Box 3020, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3N5, Canada

ABSTRACT: Siphonostomatoid copepods are often numerically important at deep-sea hydrothermal vents but their role in vent food webs has been little investigated. We examined food sources of 2 vent copepod species, Stygiopontius quadrispinosus and Benthoxinus spiculifer, and their potential role in the diet of paralvinellid worms, using a combination of complementary techniques: (1) stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes, (2) fatty acid composition and (3) morphological examination of copepod mouth structures using scanning electron microscopy. All 3 techniques revealed distinct differences between the 2 copepod species. Fatty acid composition identified bacteria as the main food source for both copepod species and indicated that S. quadrispinosus may be more specialised than B. spiculifer. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes provided further evidence that the 2 species partition food sources but feed at the same trophic level. The fatty acid composition and stable isotopes of both paralvinellid worms showed that they are generalists, with a varied diet. Further, in samples where S. quadrispinosus were highly abundant, both worms had stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions that indicated that they were feeding on copepods. Although neither worm appeared anatomically equipped for seizing live copepod prey, we suggest that dead copepods may be consumed along with other particulate debris by the paralvinellid worms. The contribution of copepod remains to the detrital pool in these mineral substratum habitats remains to be quantified.


KEY WORDS: Hydrothermal vents · Copepoda · Polychaeta · Food webs · Stable isotopes · Fatty acids · Morphology · Northeast Pacific


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Cite this article as: Limén H, Stevens CJ, Bourass Z, Juniper SK (2008) Trophic ecology of siphonostomatoid copepods at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the northeast Pacific. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 359:161-170

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