Metabolic and blood characteristics of the hydrothermal vent tube-worm Riftia pachyptila

J. J. Childress, A. J. Arp, C. R. Fisher

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Specimens of the hydrothermal vent pogonophoran Riftia pachyptila Jones were collected by submersible at a depth of 2 600 m at the 21°N hydrothermal vent site on the East Pacific Rise (20°50′N, 109°06′W) in April and May of 1982. The worms were maintained in pressurized aquaria for up to 45 d for metabolic studies. Consumption of O2 was regulated down to low PO2 (oxygen partial pressure) values; O2 consumption rates were 0.63 and 1.12 μ mol g-1 wet wt h-1 at 2.5° and 8°C, respectively; such rates were comparable to those previously measured for other pogonophorans. Intact specimens of R. pachyptila (including bacterial symbionts) did not consume significant amounts of CH4 from the environment. The respiratory quotients, in the absence of added sulfide, indicated that metabolism was mainly heterotrophic. High rates of uptake of dissolved amino acids were recorded for one specimen. The total [CO2] in the vascular blood and the Hb-containing coelomic fluid were high. Under anaerobic conditions, there were equilibrium distributions of pH, total [CO2] and sulfide concentrations between the vascular blood and the coelomic fluid, apparently because these metabolites were readily exchanged between the two compartments. The vascular blood bound neither CH4 nor H2. However, sulfide was reversibly bound by both the vascular blood and coelomic fluid; because this binding depended strongly on pH (with a maximum at about 7.5), HS- was probably the molecular species bound. Under anaerobic, but not aerobic conditions, the trophosome bound substantial amount of sulfide; thus, the high concentrations of sulfide in the trophosome may have resulted mainly from sulfide bound to sulfide oxidases under anaerobic conditions. The coelomic fluid had a relatively low buffering capacity (2.2 mmol CO2ΔpH-1).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-124
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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