Alternate unstable states: Convergent paths of succession in hydrocarbon-seep tubeworm-associated communities

Erik E. Cordes, Derk C. Bergquist, Benjamin L. Predmore, Chris Jones, Peter Deines, Guy Telesnicki, Charles R. Fisher

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49 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown clear, predictable successional trends in habitat characteristics and community structure in tubeworm aggregations at 3 similar hydrocarbon-seep sites on the central upper Louisiana slope of the Gulf of Mexico. In this study, we examine these trends in quantitative community collections from 7 additional hydrocarbon-seep sites widely distributed in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The relative proportions and sizes of Lamellibrachia luymesi and Seepiophila jonesi in tubeworm aggregations were similar at new and central sites, though S. jonesi dominated some collections from new sites, a situation not previously observed at central sites. In general, sulfide declined with increasing aggregation age (average size of tubeworms), but there was more variability in this trend at the new sites. Tubeworm-associated community composition was similar at new and central sites, with only a few rare species collected at the new sites for the first time. The most significant differences in the communities at new sites were the lower relative abundance of various gastropod species, and the absence of gastropods from collections made at the Viosca Knoll site. This community type was largely restricted to young aggregations at new sites that were more isolated from other tubeworm aggregations and consisted of higher proportions of S. jonesi. As succession proceeds from young to old aggregations, many of the previously described processes were apparent at the new sites including a reduction in biomass and a shift in trophic structure from endemic primary consumers to non-endemic higher order predators. Regardless of community composition in young aggregations, succession converges on similar late-stage community types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-176
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 12 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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