Characterization of hydrothermal vent faunal assemblages in the Mariana Back-Arc Spreading Centre




Giguere, Thomas

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Researchers have learned much about the biological assemblages that form around hydrothermal vents. However, identities of species in these assemblages and their basic ecological features are often lacking. In 2015, the first leg of the Hydrothermal Hunt expedition identified likely new vent sites in the Mariana Back-arc Spreading Center (BASC). In 2016, the second leg of the expedition used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to confirm and sample two new sites and two previously known sites. My first objective is to identify the animals collected from these four vent sites. In these samples, I identify 42 animal taxa, including the discovery of four new vent-associated species, five potentially new species and six taxa not previously reported in the Mariana BASC vents. My second objective is to combine these new data with previous studies and examine the species distributions among all known vent sites in the Mariana BASC using the α-, β-, and γ-diversity framework. I present updated species absence-presence lists for all eight Mariana BASC vent sites, which begin to resolve some of the issues with species identification. In this thesis, my approach to assessing β-diversity is novel in the field of hydrothermal vent ecology. My work also provides the first intra-regional scale assessments of β-diversity that include all sites known in a vent system. My third objective is to explore environmental factors driving these species distribution patterns. The α-diversity of BASC vent sites gradually increases with latitude, and the β-diversity calculated using the Raup-Crick index correlates with distance to nearby vent sites. Stochastic assembly processes likely shape the diversity patterns throughout the Mariana BASC as few environmental variables are known to correlate with these patterns. My fourth objective is to compare the β-diversity patterns between the Mariana BASC vent sites and those in two other vent systems: the Mariana Arc and the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The γ- and average α-diversity values for the BASC vents are relatively low compared to the other two systems. The Jaccard index revealed that the average number of shared species among the Arc vent sites is much lower than those of the BASC and the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The Raup-Crick index indicates that stochastic processes explain the average β-diversity of the Mariana BASC vents better than those of the Mariana Arc and Juan de Fuca Ridge.



hydrothermal vent, Mariana back-arc, faunal assemblages, beta-diversity, biodiversity, diversity distribution, Rimicaris falkorae, vent ecology, chemosynthetic ecosystems, Rimicaris falkorae