Marine Biology

, Volume 146, Issue 5, pp 895–901 | Cite as

The color of the trophosome: elemental sulfur distribution in the endosymbionts of Riftia pachyptila (Vestimentifera; Siboglinidae)

  • B. Pflugfelder
  • C. R. Fisher
  • M. Bright
Research Article


Riftia pachyptila Jones, 1981, lives in association with a chemoautotrophic, sulfide-oxidizing γ-Proteobacterium that occurs in a specialized organ, the trophosome. Ultrastructurally different bacterial subpopulations occur in different regions of the trophosome lobules (central rods, median small cocci, peripheral large cocci) and contain vesicles, which have been proposed to be sites of elemental sulfur storage. Differently colored trophosomes have been suggested to reflect different amounts of elemental sulfur in the tissue. In this study, the presence of elemental sulfur (S0) was confirmed in the vesicles of the symbionts of R. pachyptila by electron energy loss spectrography (EELS). The proportion of (two-dimensional) area occupied by sulfur vesicles in the cells was found to be strongly correlated with trophosome color, both in individuals with uniformly colored trophosomes and individuals that exhibited a gradual color change along the length of their trophosomes. Elemental sulfur content was highly variable between individuals from a single collection, suggesting a high degree of microhabitat heterogeneity within vestimentiferan aggregations.


Sodium Cacodylate Buffer Uranyl Nitrate Bacterial Morphotypes Sulfur Storage Posterior Body Region 
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We would like to thank the captain and crew of the R.V. “Atlantis” and D.S.V. “Alvin” for their support during the “HOLIDAYS AT SEA” cruise in November/December 2001 and the “ANOTHER HOLIDAY AT SEA” cruise in December 2002. Technical assistance from P. Gahleitner and D. Gruber, critical comments from three anonymous reviewers, and support from B. Pflugfelder, R. Pflugfelder and M. Plank is gratefully acknowledged. Financial support came from the Austrian Science Foundation FWF 13762-BIO to M.B. and NSF OCE0002729 to C.R.F.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Conservation BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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