Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Assessment of decadal-scale ecological change at a deep Mid-Atlantic hydrothermal vent and reproductive time-series in the shrimp Rimicaris exoculata

J.T.P.  Copley a1c1, P.B.K.  Jorgensen a1 and R.A.  Sohn a2
a1 School of Ocean & Earth Science, University of Southampton, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
a2 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA

Article author query
copley jtp   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jorgensen pbk   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
sohn ra   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This study presents a comparison of distribution and abundance of dominant megafaunal species at the TAG hydrothermal mound on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge from 1994 to 2004. A geographical information system (GIS) database was compiled from georeferenced observations of faunal abundances at 534 locations on the TAG hydrothermal mound, determined by image analysis of ROV dive footage from November 2004. These data are compared with observations from submersible dives in 1994 to assess changes in the extent and population density of aggregations of the shrimp Rimicaris exoculata at the central black smokers of TAG. The GIS database was also used to assess changes in abundance and distribution of the anemone Maractis rimicarivora by simulating the path of a biotransect conducted in 1994 and 1995. There was no evidence of a decline in the extent of shrimp aggregations at the central black smokers of TAG between 1994 and 2004. This result indicates that occasional exposure to high-intensity submersible lighting, which took place during several scientific expeditions in the intervening period, does not pose an immediate conservation threat to populations of R. exoculata. Similarly, there were no significant differences in the distribution and abundance of anemones between 1994 and 2004. These results indicate a constancy in the identity, distribution and abundance of dominant species at TAG that contrasts with other vent sites where quantitative time-series have been established. The reproductive pattern of R. exoculata was also examined by dissection and direct measurement of oocytes from females collected in September 1994 and November 2004, providing the first comparison of reproductive development in samples from different months for this species. There was no significant difference in oocyte size–frequency distributions of females collected in these samples, indicating a lack of seasonal reproduction in R. exoculata.

(Published Online July 30 2007)
(Received November 20 2006)
(Accepted June 19 2007)

c1 Corresponding author, e-mail: