Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean Seep Mollusks May Share Evolutionary History With Other Deep-sea Creatures

Date:
September 11, 2006
Source:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Summary:
The unusual mollusks of oceanic cold seeps -- strange clams, mussels and sea snails that thrive in the sulfur and methane-rich environments -- are on average older than the marine mollusk community as a whole, according to a new report in the journal Science.

The unusual mollusks of oceanic cold seeps--strange clams, mussels and sea snails that thrive in the sulfur and methane-rich environments--are on average older than the marine mollusk community as a whole, according to a new report in the 8 September issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

On average, the first appearance of cold seep mollusk genera in the geological record is a full epoch earlier than that of marine mollusks in general, according to Steffen Kiel and Crispin Little of the University of Leeds.

These findings indicate that the long evolutionary history of the seep mollusks is more similar to that of other deep-sea animals than to some of their mollusk contemporaries from other parts of the oceans.

Cold seeps may have been--and continue to be--safe harbors for the mollusks, protecting them from mass extinctions and possible abrupt oxygen changes in the seas, the researchers found. However, many deep-sea species outside of the cold seeps have also managed to ride out these changes.

"The shallow water environment is much more challenging, subject to changes in sea levels, extinction events, pollution, sediment runoff--all sorts of factors which don't affect animals in the deep sea," Little explained.

This makes it difficult to tell whether seep mollusks owe their long evolutionary history to their unique home environment or to their status as deep-sea creatures, he noted.

Cold seeps are places where fluids rich in hydrogen sulfide and methane leak up through the ocean floor, creating a unique chemical environment where hardy bacteria process the sulfide and methane. Seep fluids are about the same temperature as surrounding waters, but similar chemically challenging environments exist at hydrothermal vents, fissures in the ocean floor where water is superheated by magma lurking just below the crust.

Although seep and vent fluids are a poisonous brew for most species, animals such as giant tube worms and the mollusks studied by Kiel and Little thrive with the help of the symbiotic bacteria. "If you can become adapted to living at these sites, you can make a very good living indeed," Little said.

The origins and age of seep citizens such as the mollusks has been debated for some time by scientists using both fossil and genetic evidence. Kiel and Little decided to examine the fossil record for modern seep mollusks to see how their history compared to that of the overall marine mollusk population.

By sorting 29 mollusk genera into the geological time periods when they first appeared, the researchers found that seep mollusk genera, on average, appeared during the Eocene epoch about 55 to 34 million years ago. By contrast, the average age of first appearances for all marine mollusks occurred in the Oligocene epoch, about 34 to 24 million years ago.

Following the fortunes of seep mollusks through time, Kiel and Little also found little evidence that mass extinction events or periods of low oxygen dealt significant blows to the seep communities. Seeps may have been good shelters during these events because "they were driven by a constant source of geothermal energy," Little said.

The Eocene age calculated by the Science researchers casts some doubt on another mystery involving seep animals: what is their relationship to whale falls? Whale falls, the slowly decaying remains of large whales sunk to the ocean's depths, harbor yet another unique chemical community similar to that in vents and seeps.

Some researchers suggest that whale falls were evolutionary "stepping stones," creating new environments for seep animals to evolve into a plethora of new species. But Kiel and Little's work shows that more than three-quarters of seep mollusk genera had already appeared by the time oceangoing whales would have filled the seas.

Whale falls "are not instrumental in the evolution" of seep mollusks, but the falls "may have allowed them to expand into new sites," Little explained.

"Cold seep mollusks are older than the general marine mollusk fauna" by Steffen Kiel and Crispin T.S. Littleat the University of Leeds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Association for the Advancement of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Ocean Seep Mollusks May Share Evolutionary History With Other Deep-sea Creatures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060911105132.htm>.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2006, September 11). Ocean Seep Mollusks May Share Evolutionary History With Other Deep-sea Creatures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060911105132.htm
American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Ocean Seep Mollusks May Share Evolutionary History With Other Deep-sea Creatures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060911105132.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins