The discovery of new deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities in the Southern ocean and implications for biogeography

Jonathan Eisen, Alex Rogers, Paul Tyler, Douglas Connelly, Jon Copley, Rachael James, Robert Larter, Katrin Linse, Rachel Mills, Alfredo Naveira Garabato, Richard Pancost, David Pearce, Nicholas Polunin, Christopher German, Timothy Shank, Philipp Boersch-Supan, Belinda Alker, Alfred Aquilina, Sarah Bennett, Andrew ClarkeRobert Dinley, Alastair Graham, Darryl Green, Jeffrey Hawkes, Laura Hepburn, Ana Hilario, Veerle Huvenne, Leigh Marsh, Eva Ramirez-Llodra, William Reid, Christopher Roterman, Christopher Sweeting, Sven Thatje, Katrin Zwirglmaier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Citations (Scopus)


Since the first discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents along the Gala´pagos Rift in 1977, numerous vent sites and endemic faunal assemblages have been found along mid-ocean ridges and back-arc basins at low to mid latitudes. These discoveries have suggested the existence of separate biogeographic provinces in the Atlantic and the North West Pacific, the existence of a province including the South West Pacific and Indian Ocean, and a separation of the North East Pacific, North East Pacific Rise, and South East Pacific Rise. The Southern Ocean is known to be a region of high deep-sea species diversity and centre of origin for the global deep-sea fauna. It has also been proposed as a gateway connecting hydrothermal vents in different oceans but is little explored because of extreme conditions. Since 2009 we have explored two segments of the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) in the Southern Ocean using a remotely operated vehicle. In each segment we located deep-sea hydrothermal vents hosting high-temperature black smokers up to 382.8uC and diffuse venting. The chemosynthetic ecosystems hosted by these vents are dominated by a new yeti crab (Kiwa n. sp.), stalked barnacles, limpets, peltospiroid gastropods, anemones, and a predatory sea star. Taxa abundant in vent ecosystems in other oceans, including polychaete worms (Siboglinidae), bathymodiolid mussels, and alvinocaridid shrimps, are absent from the ESR vents. These groups, except the Siboglinidae, possess planktotrophic larvae, rare in Antarctic marine invertebrates, suggesting that the environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean may act as a dispersal filter for vent taxa. Evidence from the distinctive fauna, the unique community structure, and multivariate analyses suggest that the Antarctic vent ecosystems represent a new vent biogeographic province. However, multivariate analyses of species present at the ESR and at other deep-sea hydrothermal vents globally indicate that vent biogeography is more complex than previously recognised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1001234
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2012


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