Habitat associations in gastropod species at East Pacific Rise hydrothermal vents (9 degrees 50'N). Academic Article uri icon


  • At deep-sea hydrothermal vents on the East Pacific Rise (9 degrees 50'N), distinct megafaunal assemblages are positioned along strong thermal and chemical gradients. We investigated the distribution of gastropod species to determine whether they associate with specific megafaunal zones and to determine the thermal boundaries of their habitats. Gastropods colonized a series of basalt blocks that were placed into three different zones characterized by vestimentiferan tubeworms, bivalves, and suspension-feeders, respectively. Additional gastropods were collected on selected blocks from higher temperature vestimentiferan habitat and from grab samples of alvinellid polychaetes. On the blocks, gastropod species clustered into a "Cool" group (Clypeosectus delectus, Eulepetopsis vitrea, Gorgoleptis spiralis, and Lepetodrilus ovalis) whose species tended to be most abundant in the suspension-feeder zone, and a "Warm" group (Lepetodrilus cristatus, L. elevatus, L. pustulosus, and Cyathermia naticoides) whose species all were significantly more abundant in the vestimentiferan zone than elsewhere. The temperature ranges of Cool species were generally lower than the ranges of Warm ones, although both groups were present at 3 to 6 degrees C; also present was Bathymargarites symplector, which clustered with neither group. Three additional species, Rhynchopelta concentrica, Neomphalus fretterae, and Nodopelta rigneae, co-occurred with Warm-group species on selected blocks from hotter habitats. Although a few species were found only in alvinellid collections, most species were not exclusive to a specific megafaunal zone. We propose that species in the Cool and Warm groups occupy specific microhabitats that are present in more than one zone.

publication date

  • June 2007