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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 321:143-155 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps321143

Meiobenthos at the Arctic Håkon Mosby Mud Volcano, with a parental-caring nematode thriving in sulphide-rich sediments

Saskia Van Gaever1,*, Leon Moodley2, Dirk de Beer3, Ann Vanreusel1

1Marine Biology Section, Department of Biology, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
2Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, Korringaweg 7, 4401 NT Yerseke, The Netherlands
3Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstrasse 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany

ABSTRACT: Håkon Mosby Mud Volcano (HMMV, SW Barents Sea slope, 1280 m) is one of the numerous cold methane-venting seeps existing along the continental margins. Analyses of video-guided core samples revealed extreme differences in the diversity and density of the metazoan meiobenthic communities associated with the different sub-habitats (centre, microbial mats, Pogonophora field, outer rim) of this mud volcano. Diversity was lowest in the sulphidic, microbial mat sediments that supported the highest standing stock, with unusually high densities (11000 ind. 10 cm–2) of 1 nematode species related to Geomonhystera disjuncta. Stable carbon isotope analyses revealed that this nematode species was thriving on chemosynthetically derived food sources in these sediments. Ovoviviparous reproduction has been identified as an important adaptation of parents securing the survival and development of their brood in this toxic environment. The proliferation of this single species in exclusive association with free-living, sulphide-oxidising bacteria (Beggiatoa) indicates that its dominance is strongly related to trophic specialisation, evidently uncommon among the meiofauna. This chemoautotrophic association was replaced by copepods in the bare, sulphide-free sediments of the volcano’s centre, dominated by aerobic methane oxidation as the chemosynthetic process. Copepods and nauplii reached maximum densities and dominance in the volcano’s centre (500 ind. 10 cm–2). Their strongly depleted carbon isotope signatures indicated a trophic link with methane-derived carbon. This proliferation of only selected meiobenthic species supported by chemosynthetically derived carbon suggests that, in addition to the sediment geochemistry, the associated reduced meiobenthic diversity may equally be related to the trophic resource specificity in HMMV sub-habitats.

KEY WORDS: Deep-sea cold methane seep · Sulphidic environment · Meiobenthos · Nematodes · Geomonhystera disjuncta · Ovoviviparity · Trophoecology · Carbon isotopes

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