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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 412:93-101 (2010)  -  DOI:

Blue mats: faunal composition and food web structure in colonial ciliate (Folliculinopsis sp.) mats at Northeast Pacific hydrothermal vents

Angela Kouris1,2,*, Helene Limén1,3, Catherine J. Stevens1,5, S. Kim Juniper1,4

1Centre GEOTOP, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8, Canada
2Present address: Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA
3Present address: The Swedish Parliament, 10012 Stockholm, Sweden
4Present address: School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3N5, Canada
5Present address: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., Wellington 6241, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: The present study provides a first description of the faunal composition and food web structure associated with blue mat ciliates (Folliculinopsis sp.) at hydrothermal vents on the Juan de Fuca and Explorer Ridges in the NE Pacific. Invertebrates associated with blue mats were identified, quantified and analyzed for stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes. In addition, fatty acid analyses of blue mats were performed. We found a recurrent assemblage of invertebrates associated with the blue mats, and, in all samples, meiofauna were numerically dominant. The harpacticoid copepod Amphiascus sp. was far more abundant than any other species within the folliculinid mats. While some of the invertebrates (including Amphiascus sp.) within this assemblage seem exclusively linked to blue mats, others are known from other nearby hydrothermal vent habitats. Folliculinopsis sp. ciliates were far more depleted in δ13C than invertebrates within the blue mat assemblage, indicating that the latter do not feed exclusively on the former. At least 2 trophic levels exist within this assemblage, with juvenile macrofauna, ostracod and nematode species occupying higher trophic levels. The lipid profiles indicate that 16:1ω7 and 18:1ω7 (typical of sulfur oxidizers) make up over half the blue mat fatty acids. Similar to tubeworm bushes at hydrothermal vents and mussel beds at cold seeps, blue mats may create a habitat within which meiofaunal and juvenile macrobenthic species can find shelter and food, thus playing an indirect but important role in the ecology of these organisms.

KEY WORDS: Food web · Folliculinid · Hydrothermal vents · Stable isotopes · Fatty acid · Meiofauna · Macrofauna

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Cite this article as: Kouris A, Limén H, Stevens CJ, Juniper SK (2010) Blue mats: faunal composition and food web structure in colonial ciliate (Folliculinopsis sp.) mats at Northeast Pacific hydrothermal vents. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 412:93-101.

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