Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 129-133

First online:

Scarred limpets at hydrothermal vents: evidence of predation by deep-sea whelks

  • Janet R. VoightAffiliated withField Museum of Natural History Email author 
  • , Julia D. SigwartAffiliated withIllinois Mathematics and Science AcademyNatural History Division, National Museum of Ireland

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The chaotic physical and chemical environment at deep-sea hydrothermal vents has been associated with an ecosystem with few predators, arguably allowing the habitat to provide refuge for vulnerable species. The dominance of endemic limpets with thin, open-coiled shells at north Pacific vents may support this view. To test their vulnerability to predation, the incidence of healed repair scars, which are argued to reflect non-lethal encounters with predators, were examined on the shells of over 5,800 vent limpets of Lepetodrilus fucensis McLean (1988) that were collected from 13 to 18 August 1996. Three vent fields on the Juan de Fuca Ridge at ca. 2,200 m depth were sampled, two within 70 m of 47°56.87′N 129°05.91′W, and one at 47°57.85′N 129°05.15′W with the conspicuous potential limpet predators, the zoarcid fish Pachycara gymninium Anderson and Peden (1988), the galatheid crab Munidopsis alvisca Williams (1988), and the buccinid snail Buccinum thermophilum Harasewych and Kantor (2002). Limpets from the predator-rich vent were most often scarred, a significant difference created by the high incidence of scars on small (<4 mm long) limpets in this sample. Collected with the limpets were small (median shell diameter 4.4 mm) buccinids. They, rather than the larger, more conspicuous mobile fishes and crabs are argued to be the shell-damaging predator.