Marine Biology

, Volume 124, Issue 2, pp 301-312

Oxygen/sulfide regime and nematode fauna associated with Arenicola marina burrows: new insights in the thiobios case

  • M. A. WetzelAffiliated withZoological Institute and Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg
  • , P. JensenAffiliated withMarine Biological Laboratory, University of Copenhagen
  • , O. GiereAffiliated withZoological Institute and Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg

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Profiles of oxygen and sulfide around the burrows of the lugworm, Arenicola marina, from a North Sea tidal flat were examined with microelectrodes, and the steep gradients were related to the microdistribution of nematodes. Around the tail shaft free oxygen penetrated only 2 mm into the burrow wall, coinciding with a bright zone sharply limited by the ambient black sediment. Contrastingly, in normal bottoms of the tidal flat (“controls”) only the surface of the bright zone was supplied with free oxygen. Here, the dark colouration coincided with the presence of free hydrogen sulfide. Around the tail shaft the nearest free hydrogen sulfide was detected 6 mm from the burrow wall leaving several millimetres of black sediment without measurable free sulfide. We discuss how these divergencies may relate to the stability of the oxygen/sulfide gradients and the course of time involved in their formation. A total of 54 nematode species were identified. Based on non-metric Multidimensional Scaling Ordination, four nematode assemblages corresponded to four microhabitats of the A. marina burrow: the funnel, the feeding pocket, the tail shaft and the feacal cast. The tail shaft assemblage (oxic plus partly anoxic zones) was similar to that of the anoxic zone of the control sediment. It was dominated by the most abundant nematode in the present study, Metalinhomoeus biformis (mean abundance in tail shaft 202 indx10 cm-3). Adults of common nematode species from sulfidic microhabitats had a significantly higher length/diameter ratio than those inhabiting the oxic zone of the control sediment (p<0.001). The chemical recordings and metric analysis indicate that these slender nematodes around the A. marina tail shaft and in the reduced horizons of the reference sites represent thiobiotic assemblages, as compared to the shorter and stouter oxybiotic species characterising the assemblages from the surface zone and (partly) the funnel.