Spatial differences in East Scotia Ridge hydrothermal vent food webs: influences of chemistry, microbiology and predation on trophodynamics
The hydrothermal vents on the East Scotia Ridge are the first to be explored in the Antarctic and are dominated by large peltospiroid gastropods, stalked barnacles (Vulcanolepas sp.) and anomuran crabs (Kiwa sp.) but their food webs are unknown. Vent fluid and macroconsumer samples were collected at three vent sites (E2, E9N and E9S) at distances of tens of metres to hundreds of kilometres apart with contrasting vent fluid chemistries to describe trophic interactions and identify potential carbon fixation pathways using stable isotopes. δ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon from vent fluids ranged from −4.6‰ to 0.8‰ at E2 and from −4.4‰ to 1.5‰ at E9. The lowest macroconsumer δ13C was observed in peltospiroid gastropods (−30.0‰ to −31.1‰) and indicated carbon fixation via the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycle by endosymbiotic gamma-Proteobacteria. Highest δ13C occurred in Kiwa sp. (−19.0‰ to −10.5‰), similar to that of the epibionts sampled from their ventral setae. Kiwa sp. δ13C differed among sites, which were attributed to spatial differences in the epibiont community and the relative contribution of carbon fixed via the reductive tricarboxylic acid (rTCA) and CBB cycles assimilated by Kiwa sp. Site differences in carbon fixation pathways were traced into higher trophic levels e.g. a stichasterid asteroid that predates on Kiwa sp. Sponges and anemones at the periphery of E2 assimilated a proportion of epipelagic photosynthetic primary production but this was not observed at E9N. Differences in the δ13C and δ34S values of vent macroconsumers between E2 and E9 sites suggest the relative contributions of photosynthetic and chemoautotrophic carbon fixation (rTCA v CBB) entering the hydrothermal vent food webs vary between the sites.
Authors: Reid, William D.K., Sweeting, Christopher J., Wigham, Benjamin D., Zwirglmaier, Katrin, Hawkes, Jeffrey A., McGill, Rona A.R., Linse, Katrin ORCID record for Katrin Linse, Polunin, Nicholas V.C.