National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1995

Larvae of benthic invertebrates in hydrothermal vent plumes over Juan de Fuca Ridge

Mullineaux, L.S., P.H. Wiebe, and E.T. Baker

Mar. Biol., 122(4), 585–596, doi: 10.1007/BF00350680 (1995)

Larvae of benthic invertebrates collected in the water column above Juan de Fuca Ridge show distinct variations in abundance and composition in, and away from, the neutrally buoyant hydrothermal plume emanating from underlying vents. Larvae of vent gastropods (Lepetodrilus sp. and two peltospirid species) occur in significantly higher abundances in the plume than away from it (mean abundance = 21.0 individuals 1000 m−3 vs 1.4 individuals 1000 m−3), and larvae of vent bivalves (Calyptogena? sp.) occur exclusively in the plume (mean abundance = 0.5 individuals 1000 m−3). Larvae from other benthic taxa known not to be endemic to Juan de Fuca vent communities, such as anthozoans, pholad clams, bryozoans and echinoderms, are less abundant in the plume than away (mean abundance = 47.5 vs 16.9 individuals 1000 m−3) at comparable depths and heights above the bottom. These results support the hypothesis that larvae of vent species are entrained into buoyant hydrothermal plumes and transported at the level of lateral spreading, several hundred meters above the seafloor. The discovery of vent-associated larvae in the plume suggests that models used to predict hydrodynamic processes in the plume will also be useful for modeling larval dispersal. Advanced imaging and new molecular-based approaches will be required to resolve taxonomic uncertainties in some larval groups (e.g. certain polychaete families) in order to distinguish vent species and make comprehensive flux estimates of all vent larvae in the neutrally buoyant plume.

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