Gametogenic periodicity in the chemosynthetic cold-seep mussel “Bathymodiolus” childressi

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The gametogenic periodicity of the cold seep mussel “Bathymodiolus” childressi was analysed from a time series of samples from depths of ˜ 650 m surrounding the Brine Pool cold seep on the continental slope of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Occasional samples were retrieved from Bush Hill and GC 234 for comparison. At the Brine Pool, both females and males showed strong reproductive periodicity with the initiation of gametogenesis from December to March, followed by a period of gamete growth or proliferation and spawning from October to February. Gametogenesis was synchronized at all three sites. Gametogenic periodicity appears to be correlated with surface production that peaks during the winter months. Downward flux of detritus during this period may provide food for the planktotrophic larvae and also supplementary nutrition for the adult, which has chemosynthetic bacterial symbionts but is also capable of filter feeding. Individuals in all three populations carried parasites and these were especially common at Bush Hill and GC234, where it is suggested they have a major impact on reproductive output.

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