Importance of seep primary production to Lophelia pertusa and associated fauna in the Gulf of Mexico

Erin L. Becker, Erik E. Cordes, Stephen A. Macko, Charles R. Fisher

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To investigate the importance of seep primary production to the nutrition of Lophelia pertusa and associated communities and examine local trophic interactions, we analyzed stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur compositions in seven quantitative L. pertusa community collections. A significant seep signature was only detected in one of the 35 species tested (Provanna sculpta, a common seep gastropod) despite the presence of seep fauna at the three sample sites. A potential predator of L. pertusa was identified (Coralliophila sp.), and a variety of other trophic interactions among the fauna occupying the coral framework were suggested by the data, including the galatheid crab Munidopsis sp. 2 feeding upon hydroids and the polychaete Eunice sp. feeding upon the sabellid polychaete Euratella sp. Stable carbon abundances were also determined for different sections of L. pertusa skeleton representing different stages in the growth and life of the aggregation. There was no temporal trend detected in the skeleton isotope values, suggesting that L. pertusa settles in these areas only after seepage has largely subsided. Isotope values of individual taxa that were collected from both L. pertusa and vestimentiferan habitats showed decreasing reliance upon seep primary production with average age of the vestimentiferan aggregation, and finally, no seep signature was detected in the coral collections. Together our data suggest that it is the presence of authigenic carbonate substrata, a product of past seep microbial activity, as well as hydrodynamic processes that drive L. pertusa occurrence at seep sites in the Gulf of Mexico, not nutritional dependence upon primary production by seep microbes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-800
Number of pages15
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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