Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 109-116

First online:

A new bathymodioline mussel symbiosis at the Juan de Fuca hydrothermal vents

  • Z. P. McKinessAffiliated withDepartment of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, The Biological Laboratories, Harvard UniversityNational Animal Disease Center, Agricultural Research Service, USDA
  • , E. R. McMullinAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, The Pennsylvania State UniversityCollege of Marine Studies, University of Delaware
  • , C. R. FisherAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • , C. M. CavanaughAffiliated withDepartment of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University Email author 

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Until recently, the only major hydrothermal vent biogeographic province not known to include bathymodioline mussels was the spreading centers of the northeast Pacific, but deep-sea dives using DSV Alvin on the Endeavor segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (47°56N 129°06W; ∼2,200 m depth) in August 1999 yielded the only recorded bathymodioline mytilids from these northeastern Pacific vents. One specimen in good condition was evaluated for its relatedness to other deep-sea bathymodioline mussels and for the occurrence of chemoautotrophic and/or methanotrophic symbionts in the gills. Phylogenetic analyses of the host cytochrome oxidase I gene show this mussel shares evolutionary alliances with hydrothermal vent and cold seep mussels from the genus Bathymodiolus, and is distinct from other known species of deep-sea bathymodiolines, suggesting this mussel is a newly discovered species. Ultrastructural analyses of gill tissue revealed the presence of coccoid bacteria that lacked the intracellular membranes observed in methanotrophic symbionts. The bacteria may be extracellular but poor condition of the fixed tissue complicated conclusions regarding symbiont location. A single gamma-proteobacterial 16S rRNA sequence was amplified from gill tissue and directly sequenced from gill tissue. This sequence clusters with other mussel chemoautotrophic symbiont 16S rRNA sequences, which suggests a chemoautotrophic, rather than methanotrophic, symbiosis in this mussel. Stable carbon (δ13C = −26.6%) and nitrogen (δ15N = +5.19%) isotope ratios were also consistent with those reported for other chemoautotroph-mussel symbioses. Despite the apparent rarity of these mussels at the Juan de Fuca vent sites, this finding extends the range of the bathymodioline mussels to all hydrothermal vent biogeographic provinces studied to date.