Multiple trophic resources for a chemoautotrophic community at a cold water brine seep at the base of the Florida Escarpment
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The biological community that surrounds the hypersaline cold water brine seeps at the base of the Florida Escarpment is dominated by two macrofaunal species: an undescribed bivalve of the family Mytilidac and a vestimentiferan worm, Escarpia laminata. These animals are apparently supported by the chemoautotrophic fixation of carbon via bacterial endosymbionts. Water column and sediment data indicate that high levels of both sulfide and methane are present in surface sediments around the animals but absent from overlying waters. Stable isotopic analyses of pore water indicate that there are two sources of sulfide: the first is geothermal sulfide carried in groundwater leaching from the base of the escarpment, and the second is microbial sulfide produced in situ. The vestimentiferan E. laminata, and the mytilid bivalve (seep mussel) live contiguously but rely on different substrates for chemoautotrophy. Enzyme assays, patterns of elemental sulfur storage and stable isotopic analyses indicate that E. laminata relies on sulfide oxidation and the seep mussel on methane oxidation for growth.
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