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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 636:35-46 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13196

Relationship between geochemical environments, nutritional resources, and faunal succession in whale-fall ecosystems

Yuji Onishi1,5,*, Toshiro Yamanaka1,6, Ken-Ichi Ozaki2, Rei Nakayama2, Sho Shimamura1,7, Rie Itami3, Ami Fukushima3, Megumi Miyamoto3, Yoshihiro Fujiwara4

1Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, 1-1 Naka 3-chome, Tsushima, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8530, Japan
2Faculty of Science, Kyushu University, 6-10-1 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 812-8560, Japan
3Faculty of Science, Okayama University, 1-1 Naka 3-chome, Tsushima, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8530, Japan
4Marine Biodiversity and Environmental Assessment Research Center, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan
5Present address: Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, 2-509-3 Hirano, Otsu, Shiga 520-2113, Japan
6Present address: School of Marine Resources and Environment, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, 4-5-7 Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8477, Japan
7Present address: Japan Meteorological Agency, 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Faunal succession in whale-fall communities is closely associated with the progress of decomposition of the whale carcass. The main nutritional resources supporting a whale-fall community change from whale matter to chemosynthetic products over time. To study the geochemical aspects of this nutritional succession, we sampled animals over time on and in sediments around carcasses of sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus in Sagami Bay (mobile scavenger to early sulfophilic stage) and off Cape Nomamisaki (sulfophilic stage), Japan (500 and 200-300 m water depths, respectively). In these 2 areas, stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotopes of the animal soft tissues were measured to precisely elucidate the nutritional resources for each animal. In Sagami Bay, mobile scavengers relied only on whale soft tissue. Infaunal animals at 2 wk after the deployment relied only on whale soft tissue, while infauna at 9 mo after the deployment relied on chemosynthetic products. Such changes in nutritional resources were consistent with the transition of the geochemical environment in the sediments. Off Cape Nomamisaki, vigorous microbial sulfate reduction and thioautotrophic primary production nourished the fauna around the carcasses. The fauna in this area consisted of chemosymbiotic bivalves and necrophagous animals with sulfide-tolerant metabolism. We conclude that the changes in microbial processes, biomass, and compositions in sediments influence faunal succession in whale-fall ecosystems via change in the available nutrition for the fauna.


KEY WORDS: Whale-fall ecosystem · Nutritional resource · Stable isotopes · Chemosynthetic product


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Cite this article as: Onishi Y, Yamanaka T, Ozaki KI, Nakayama R and others (2020) Relationship between geochemical environments, nutritional resources, and faunal succession in whale-fall ecosystems. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 636:35-46. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13196

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