Larvae from afar colonize deep-sea hydrothermal vents after a catastrophic eruption
Mullineaux, Lauren S.
Adams, Diane K.
Mills, Susan W.
Beaulieu, Stace E.
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The planktonic larval stage is a critical component of life history in marine benthic species because it confers the ability to disperse, potentially connecting remote populations and leading to colonization of new sites. Larval-mediated connectivity is particularly intriguing in deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities, where the habitat is patchy, transient and often separated by tens or hundreds of kilometers. A recent catastrophic eruption at vents near 9°50’N on the East Pacific Rise created a natural clearance experiment and provided an opportunity to study larval supply in the absence of local source populations. Previous field observations have suggested that established vent populations may retain larvae and be largely self-sustaining. If this hypothesis is correct, the removal of local populations should result in a dramatic change in the flux, and possibly species composition, of settling larvae. Fortuitously, monitoring of larval supply and colonization at the site had been established before the eruption and resumed shortly afterward. We detected a striking change in species composition of larvae and colonists after the eruption, most notably the appearance of the gastropod Ctenopelta porifera, an immigrant from possibly >300 km away, and the disappearance of a suite of species that formerly had been prominent. This switch demonstrates that larval supply can change markedly after removal of local source populations, enabling recolonization via immigrants from distant sites with different species composition. Population connectivity at this site appears to be temporally variable, depending not only on stochasticity in larval supply, but also on the presence of resident populations.
Author Posting. © The Authors, 2010. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of National Academy of Sciences for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107 (2010): 7829-7834, doi:10.1073/pnas.0913187107.