Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Food sources, behaviour, and distribution of hydrothermal vent shrimps at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

A.V.  Gebruk a1a2, E.C.  Southward a1, H.  Kennedy a3 and A.J.  Southward a1c1
a1 Marine Biological Association, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, PL1 2PB, UK
a2 P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Nakhimovsky pr. 36, Moscow, 117851, Russia
a3 School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales-Bangor, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5EY, UK


Five species of bresilioid shrimp were investigated at seven hydrothermal sites on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: Menez Gwen, Lucky Strike, Rainbow, Broken Spur, TAG, Snake Pit and Logatchev. Samples were prepared for analysis of stable isotopes, elemental composition and lipids. Shrimp behaviour was observed from the submersible ‘Alvin’ and in the laboratory aboard RV ‘Atlantis’. The distribution and zonation of the shrimp species was recorded. Juvenile shrimp of all species arrive at the vents carrying reserves of photosynthetic origin, built-up in the pelagic larval stages. These reserves are used while the shrimp metamorphose to the adult form and, in Rimicaris exoculata and Chorocaris chacei, while they develop epibiotic bacteria supporting structures, the modified mouthparts and the inside of the carapace. The main food of adult R. exoculata is filamentous bacteria that grow on these structures. The intermediate sizes of C. chacei also feed on such bacteria, but the final stage gets some food by scavenging or predation. Mirocaris species scavenge diverse sources; they are not trophically dependent on either R. exoculata or mussels. Adults of Alvinocaris markensis are predators of other vent animals, including R. exoculata. The dense swarms of R. exoculata, with their exosymbionts, can be compared to endosymbiont-containing animals such as Bathymodiolus and the vestimentiferan tube-worms of the Pacific vents. Such associations, whether endo- or ectosymbiotic, may be necessary for the development of flourishing communities at hydrothermal vents.

(Received January 24 2000)
(Accepted February 28 2000)

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