Habitat, growth and physiological ecology of a basaltic community of Ridgeia piscesae from the Juan de Fuca Ridge

Istvan A. Urcuyo, Gary J. Massoth, David Julian, Charles R. Fisher

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71 Scopus citations


The vestimentiferan tubeworm Ridgeia piscesae is an ecosystem-structuring organism in the hydrothermal vent environments of the Northeast Pacific. During this study, a single representative aggregation of the long-skinny morphotype of R. piscesae from the main endeavor segment was monitored for 3 yr before being collected in its entirety with a hydraulically actuated collection device manipulated in situ by a research vehicle. Vestimentiferan growth rates in this aggregation were determined by staining the exterior of the tubes and measuring newly deposited tube sections. The average growth rate of R. piscesae in this aggregation was very low in both years of the growth study (3.2 mm yr -1). Although the incidence of plume damage from partial predation was very high (>95%), mortality was very low (<4% yr-1). The distribution and the very tight clustering of recently recruited individuals indicated gregarious settlement behavior that is hypothesized to be partly due to biotic cues from settled larvae. Coupled measurements of vent fluid sulfide concentration and temperature were used to calculate the exposure of the vestimentiferans to sulfide from short-and long-term temperature monitoring. Plume-level temperature records indicate that most of the time individuals in this aggregation were exposed to extremely low levels of vent fluid, and therefore sulfide (<0.1 μM), while their posterior sections were consistently exposed to sulfide concentrations in the 100 μM range. A rootball-like structure formed the common base of the aggregation. In contrast to the anterior sections of the tubeworm tubes, the portions of the tubes within the "rootball" were freely permeable to sulfide. The results of this study show that R. piscesae, unlike vestimentiferans from the East Pacific Rise, can survive and grow in areas of low diffuse vent flow with very low plume-level exposure to sulfide. We propose that this morphotype of R. piscesae has the ability to acquire sulfide from sources near their posterior ends, similar to some species of cold seep vestimentiferans from the Gulf of Mexico. The ability of this single species of vestimentiferan to survive low exposure to vent flow with low mortality coupled with sulfide uptake across posterior tube sections may help explain the occurrence of a single vent vestimentiferan species in a wide variety of habitat conditions at hydrothermal vent sites in the Northeast Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-780
Number of pages18
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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