, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 181-192

Reproductive traits of pioneer gastropod species colonizing deep-sea hydrothermal vents after an eruption

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Abstract

The colonization dynamics and life histories of pioneer species determine early succession at nascent hydrothermal vents, and their reproductive ecology may provide insight into their dispersal and population connectivity. Studies on the reproductive traits of two pioneer gastropod species, Ctenopelta porifera and Lepetodrilus tevnianus, began within a year after an eruption on the East Pacific Rise (EPR) that eliminated vent communities near 9°50′N from late 2005/early 2006. Standard histology was used to examine gamete release, instantaneous female fecundity, and time to maturation. Both species exhibited two-component oocyte size–frequency distributions indicating quasi-continuous reproduction with high fecundity. In samples collected in December 2006, both C. porifera and L. tevnianus individuals were reproductively mature. The smallest reproducing C. porifera were 4.2 mm (males) and 5.4 mm (females) in shell length, whereas reproductive L. tevnianus were smaller (2.3 and 2.4 mm in males and females, respectively). Most C. porifera were large (>6.0 mm) compared to their size at metamorphosis and reproductively mature. In contrast, most L. tevnianus were small (<1.0 mm) and immature. Reproductive traits of the two species are consistent with opportunistic colonization, but are also similar to those of other Lepetodrilus species and peltospirids at vents and do not fully explain why these particular species were the dominant pioneers. Their larvae were probably in high supply immediately after the eruption, due to oceanographic transport processes from remote source populations.

Communicated by J. P. Grassle.