Trophic ecology of Rimicaris exoculata : a combined lipid abundance/stable isotope approach
- Cite this article as:
- Rieley, G., Dover, C., Hedrick, D. et al. Marine Biology (1999) 133: 495. doi:10.1007/s002270050489
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The alvinocaridid shrimp Rimicaris exoculata is an abundant component of the biota of Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vents. To determine the nutritional strategy of this organism, we analysed the molecular abundance and carbon isotopic composition of its phospholipid fatty acids. High abundances of n-7 fatty acids (>40% total fatty acids) were observed in R. exoculata muscle tissues, in bacterial epibionts scraped from its gill bailers, and from the bacterially infested metal sulphides that the shrimp ingest. The phospholipid fatty acid abundance data indicates that the bacteria in the sulphides are closely related to the bacterial epibiota inhabiting the shrimp gill bailers, carapace and other body parts. Compound specific δ13C analyses of the phospholipid fatty acids gave average values of −12‰ for the epibiont bacteria and −21‰ for the sulphide bacteria. This difference may be largely due to the expression of different forms of RuBisCO (Forms I and II) which fractionate against 13C to different extents. Carbon limitation within the shrimp epibiont population may be an additional factor. The δ13C values (mean = −13‰) of the saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids isolated from the muscle tissues of R. exoculata were very close to those of the epibionts, indicating that the predominant source of dietary carbon for the shrimp is their epibionts, with a lesser contribution from free-living bacteria. The δ13C values (−26‰) of shrimp cholesterol were much more negative than those of the fatty acids, and this cholesterol is likely to have derived from the oceanic photic zone.