Nutritional sources of meio- and macrofauna at hydrothermal vents and adjacent areas: natural-abundance radiocarbon and stable isotope analyses uri icon


  • Deep-sea hydrothermal vents host unique marine ecosystems that rely on organic matter produced by chemoautotrophic microbes together with phytodetritus. Although meiofauna can be abundant at such vents, the small size of meiofauna limits studies on nutritional sources. Here we investigated dietary sources of meio- and macrofauna at hydrothermal vent fields in the western North Pacific using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (?13C, ?15N) and natural-abundance radiocarbon (?14C). Bacterial mats and Paralvinella spp. (polychaetes) collected from hydrothermal vent chimneys were enriched in 13C (up to -10‰) and depleted in 14C (-700 to -580‰). The ?13C and ?14C values of dirivultid copepods, endemic to hydrothermal vent chimneys, were -11‰ and -661‰, respectively, and were similar to the values in the bacterial mats and Paralvinella spp. but distinct from those of nearby non-vent sediments (?13C: ~-24‰) and water-column plankton (?14C: ~40‰). In contrast, ?13C values of nematodes from vent chimneys were similar to those of non-vent sites (ca. -25‰). Results suggest that dirivultids relied on vent chimney bacterial mats as their nutritional source, whereas vent nematodes did not obtain significant nutrient amounts from the chemolithoautotrophic microbes. The ?14C values of Neoverruca intermedia (vent barnacle) suggest they gain nutrition from chemoautotrophic microbes, but the source of inorganic carbon was diluted with bottom water much more than those of the Paralvinella habitat, reflecting Neoverruca’s more distant distribution from active venting. The combination of stable and radioisotope analyses on hydrothermal vent organisms provides valuable information on their nutritional sources and, hence, their adaptive ecology to chemosynthesis-based ecosystems.

publication date

  • July 18, 2019