Comprehensive Description

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Comprehensive Description

Lamellibrachia luymesi are vestimentiferan tubeworms (family Siboglinidae). The vestimentiferans include several species of large, sessile (i.e., fixed in one place as adults) marine polychaete annelids found around hydrogen sulfide hydrothermal vents and seeps. The vestimentiferans around hydrocarbon seeps, such as L. luymesi, can exceed 2 meters in length and are related to the giant Riftia pachyptila tubeworms found around hydrothermal vents. All these worms lack a digestive tract and rely on internal sulfide-oxidizing symbionts as a source of fixed carbon. Because these large worms are sessile, any dispersal among their very patchily distributed habitats must occur during the planktonic larval stage. The cold seep vestimentiferans Lamellibrachia luymesi and Seepiophila jonesi are apparently found only around hydrocarbon seep sites on the upper Louisiana Slope (<1000 m) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. (McMullin et al. 2010 and references therein)

Lamellibrachia luymesi individuals can live for over 250 years and form aggregations of hundreds to thousands of individuals at hydrocarbon seep sites in the Gulf of Mexico. These worms harbor internal chemoautotrophic sulfide-oxidizing (thiotrophic) symbionts. Like bathymodiolin mussels with internal methanotrophic symbionts, which are also often dominant species (by biomass) at these sites, these worms function as foundation species, supporting a high-biomass of endemic species along with numerous non-endemic species at an abundance that is significantly elevated relative to the surrounding seafloor. Cordes et al. (2005) found that tubeworm-associated communities sampled at seep sites on the upper Louisiana slope undergo predictable community succession and that these changes are due at least in part to reductions in hydrogen sulfide concentration caused by L. luymesi. (Cordes et al. 2005 and references therein)

One interesting non-chemoautotrophic seep species, the bivalve mollusk Acesta bullisi, has evolved specialized mechanisms to exploit a unique source of nutrition derived ultimately from chemosynthesis: the energy-rich eggs of giant tubeworms. This appears to be the only marine animal known to exhibit extreme morphological modifications to utilize egg predation as the major mode of nutrition. Virtually all mature individuals are found on female tubeworms rather than on males. (Järnegren et al. 2005 and references therein)

Cordes et al. (2009) provide a broad review of the Gulf of Mexico cold seeps, including the biology and ecology of L. luymesi.


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© Shapiro, Leo

Source: EOL Rapid Response Team


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