The bottom of the deep sea is largely deserted. Oases occur for example at cold seeps where water transports dissolved elements from the seabed: Specialized microbes convert methane and sulfate from sea water to hydrogen sulfide releasing carbon dioxide.
Highly adapted bacteria, many of which live in symbiosis with worms and clams, use the hydrogen sulfide for their growth. In their cells, they incorporate carbon originating from the chemical reaction of methane. "The co-existence of organisms that have settled at the cold seeps is already well understood", says Dr. Peter Linke. The biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel is lead author of the publication in the online journal PLOS ONE together with Dr. Helge Niemann from the University of Basel.
"We could give evidence that crabs subsist on the methane seeps. Thus, we came a bit closer to answering the question of which organisms benefit from the cold seeps: Versatile animals living on a mixed diet do so as well. "
In dives with the submersible ALVIN and the underwater robot QUEST off the coast of Costa Rica in the summer of 2005, the researchers observed lithodid crabs grazing at bacterial mats at a methane seep in the vicinity of the mud volcano "Mound 12". "As far as we know, deep-sea crabs feeding on bacterial mats were discovered only one single time before," Linke states.
"Our team was the first one to also generate a photographic documentation over a longer period which allows scientific interpretations." For this purpose, a deep-sea observatory was equipped with a camera and placed above a bacterial mat. During a period of about 400 hours, the camera automatically took a picture every 30 minutes. "On 184 images, crabs were seen crawling over the bacteria and apparently grazed the bacterial "lawn", Niemann describes the observations. "Afterwards, it took a few hours until the animals returned, so that new bacteria could grow."
With the submersible ALVIN, the marine biologists brought one of the crabs onboard their research vessel ATLANTIS. For the comparison with the bacteria, the diving robot QUEST took short sediment cores from the sea floor from the METEOR. "DNA and isotopic analyses at Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology later showed that the crabs actually feed on the bacterial mat and took up large amounts of chemically-produced carbon. In the body cells, we have also found traces of carbon, which was formed under the influence of light through photosynthesis", summarizes main author Niemann. "Therefore, we assume that cold seeps make an important but not the only contribution to the diet of migratory animals on the ocean floor and in this way enters into carbon, which is produced by chemosynthesis of methane in the marine food web."
Original publication: Niemann, H.; Linke, P.; Knittel, K.; MacPherson, E.; Boetius, A.; Brückmann, W.; Larvik, G.; Wallmann, K.; Schacht, U.; Omoregie, E.; Hilton, D.; Brown, K.; Rehder, G.: Methane-carbon flow into the benthic food web at cold seeps – a case study from the Costa Rica subduction zone. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074894
Maike Nicolai | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.geomar.de
More articles from Life Sciences:
ASU researchers discover chameleons use colorful language to communicate
12.12.2013 | Arizona State University
Sleep-deprived mice show connections among lack of shut-eye, diabetes, age
12.12.2013 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
A unique solar panel design made with a new ceramic material points the way to potentially providing sustainable power cheaper, more efficiently, and requiring less manufacturing time.
It also reaches a four-decade-old goal of discovering a bulk photovoltaic material that can harness energy from visible and infrared light, not just ultraviolet light.
Scaling up this new design from its tablet-size prototype to a full-size solar panel would be a large step toward making solar power affordable compared with ...
Atlantische Flohkrebse pflanzen sich jetzt auch in arktischen Gewässern fort
Biologen des Alfred-Wegener-Institutes, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI), haben zum ersten Mal nachgewiesen, dass sich in den arktischen Gewässern westlich Spitzbergens auch Flohkrebse aus dem wärmeren Atlantik fortpflanzen.
Diese überraschende Entdeckung deute auf einen möglichen Wandel der arktischen Zooplankton-Gemeinschaft hin, berichten die Wissenschaftler und Wissenschaftlerinnen in der Fachzeitschrift Marine Ecology ...
The molecular architecture of three key proteins and their complexes reveals how plants fine-tune their immune response to pathogens
Plants rarely get sick in their natural environment. When the threat of infection arises, a quick decision is made about the necessary countermeasures. The course is set by a protein which forms complexes with its partner proteins for this purpose.
Jane Parker from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding ...
Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question "Do the islands support one species or two species?" is actually "three species".
Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe's rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition.
A lavishly illustrated publication, titled "Systematic revision of Platanthera in ...
Researchers from Brown University and the University of Hawaii have found some mineralogical surprises in the Moon's largest impact crater.
Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter shows a diverse mineralogy in the subsurface of the giant South Pole Aitken basin.
The differing mineral signatures could be reflective of the minerals dredged up at the time of the giant impact 4 billion years ago, ...
12.12.2013 | Life Sciences
12.12.2013 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2013 | Studies and Analyses
11.12.2013 | Event News
10.12.2013 | Event News
05.12.2013 | Event News