Coastal oceanography sets the pace of rocky intertidal community dynamics.
The structure of ecological communities reflects a tension among forces that alter populations. Marine ecologists previously emphasized control by locally operating forces (predation, competition, and disturbance), but newer studies suggest that inputs from large-scale oceanographically modulated subsidies (nutrients, particulates, and propagules) can strongly influence community structure and dynamics. On New Zealand rocky shores, the magnitude of such subsidies differs profoundly between contrasting oceanographic regimes. Community structure, and particularly the pace of community dynamics, differ dramatically between intermittent upwelling regimes compared with relatively persistent down-welling regimes. We suggest that subsidy rates are a key determinant of the intensity of species interactions, and thus of structure in marine systems, and perhaps also nonmarine communities. (+info
Oceanic Rossby waves acting as a "hay rake" for ecosystem floating by-products.
Recent satellite observations of Rossby waves and chlorophyll anomalies propagating in subtropical gyres have suggested that wave-induced upwelling could stimulate photosynthesis. Instead, we show that chlorophyll maxima are located in abnormally warm water, in Rossby wave-induced convergences. This excludes inputs of nutrients from deeper water. We argue that the sea color anomalies are not caused by chlorophyll but by floating particles evolved from the ecosystem and accumulated by Rossby waves, acting as "marine hay rakes," in convergence zones. Such processes may be determinant for the distribution of living organisms in oligotrophic areas. (+info
Current transport of leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in the ocean.
While the long-distance movements of pelagic vertebrates are becoming known thanks to satellite telemetry, the factors determining their courses have hardly been investigated. We have analysed the effects of oceanographic factors on the post-nesting movements of three satellite-tracked leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) moving in the southwest Indian Ocean. By superimposing the turtle tracks on contemporaneous images of sea-surface temperatures and sea height anomalies, we show that currentrelated features dominate the shape of the reconstructed routes. After an initial offshore movement, turtles moved along straight routes when in the core of the current, or executed loops within eddies. Large parts of the routes were strikingly similar to those of surface drifters tracked in the same region. These findings document that long-lasting oceanic movements of marine turtles may be shaped by oceanic currents. (+info
Habitat structure and the dispersal of male and female bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are widely distributed and a high degree of morphometric and genetic differentiation has been found among both allopatric and parapatric populations. We analysed 145 samples along a contiguous distributional range from the Black Sea to the eastern North Atlantic for mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity, and found population structure with boundaries that coincided with transitions between habitat regions. These regions can be characterized by ocean floor topography, and oceanographic features such as surface salinity, productivity and temperature. At the extremes of this range there was evidence for the directional emigration of females. Bi-parentally inherited markers did not show this directional bias in migration, suggesting a different dispersal strategy for males and females at range margins. However, comparative assessment based on mitochondrial DNA and nuclear markers indicated that neither sex showed a strong bias for greater dispersal on average. These data imply a mechanism for the evolutionary structuring of populations based on local habitat dependence for both males and females. (+info
Fish population and behavior revealed by instantaneous continental shelf-scale imaging.
Until now, continental shelf environments have been monitored with highly localized line-transect methods from slow-moving research vessels. These methods significantly undersample fish populations in time and space, leaving an incomplete and ambiguous record of abundance and behavior. We show that fish populations in continental shelf environments can be instantaneously imaged over thousands of square kilometers and continuously monitored by a remote sensing technique in which the ocean acts as an acoustic waveguide. The technique has revealed the instantaneous horizontal structural characteristics and volatile short-term behavior of very large fish shoals, containing tens of millions of fish and stretching for many kilometers. (+info
Oceanographic basis of the global surface distribution of Prochlorococcus ecotypes.
By using data collected during a continuous circumnavigation of the Southern Hemisphere, we observed clear patterns in the population-genetic structure of Prochlorococcus, the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth, between and within the three Southern Subtropical Gyres. The same mechanisms that were previously invoked to account for the vertical distribution of ecotypes at local scales accounted for the global (horizontal) patterns we observed. Basin-scale and seasonal variations in the structure and strength of vertical stratification provide a basis for understanding large-scale horizontal distribution in genetic and physiological traits of Prochlorococcus, and perhaps of marine microbial communities in general. (+info
Metabolite uptake, stoichiometry and chemoautotrophic function of the hydrothermal vent tubeworm Riftia pachyptila: responses to environmental variations in substrate concentrations and temperature.
The hydrothermal vent tubeworm Riftia pachyptila is a dominant member of many hydrothermal vent communities along the East Pacific rise and is one of the fastest growing metazoans known. Riftia flourish in diffuse hydrothermal fluid flows, an environment with high spatial and temporal heterogeneity in physical and chemical conditions. To date, physiological and biochemical studies of Riftia have focused on Riftia's adaptations to its chemoautotrophic bacterial symbionts. However the relation between in situ physico-chemical heterogeneity and Riftia host and symbiont metabolism, in particular symbiont chemoautotrophic function, remain poorly understood. Accordingly, we conducted experiments using shipboard high-pressure respirometers to ascertain the effect of varying substrate concentrations and temperature on Riftia metabolite uptake and symbiont carbon fixation. Our results show that substrate concentrations can strongly govern Riftia oxygen and sulfide uptake rates, as well as net carbon uptake (which is a proxy for chemoautotrophic primary production). However, after sufficient exposure to sulfide and oxygen, Riftia were capable of sustaining symbiont autotrophic function for several hours in seawater devoid of sulfide or oxygen, enabling the association to support symbiont metabolism through brief periods of substrate deficiency. Overall, temperature had the largest influence on Riftia metabolite uptake and symbiont autotrophic metabolism. In sum, while Riftia requires sufficient availability of substrates to support symbiont chemoautotrophic function, it is extremely well poised to buffer the temporal and spatial heterogeneity in environmental substrate concentrations, alleviating the influence of environmental heterogeneity on symbiont chemoautotrophic function. (+info
Methane- and sulfur-metabolizing microbial communities dominate the Lost City hydrothermal field ecosystem.
Hydrothermal venting and the formation of carbonate chimneys in the Lost City hydrothermal field (LCHF) are driven predominantly by serpentinization reactions and cooling of mantle rocks, resulting in a highly reducing, high-pH environment with abundant dissolved hydrogen and methane. Phylogenetic and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses of 16S rRNA genes in fluids and carbonate material from this site indicate the presence of organisms similar to sulfur-oxidizing, sulfate-reducing, and methane-oxidizing Bacteria as well as methanogenic and anaerobic methane-oxidizing Archaea. The presence of these metabolic groups indicates that microbial cycling of sulfur and methane may be the dominant biogeochemical processes active within this ultramafic rock-hosted environment. 16S rRNA gene sequences grouping within the Methylobacter and Thiomicrospira clades were recovered from a chemically diverse suite of carbonate chimney and fluid samples. In contrast, 16S rRNA genes corresponding to the Lost City Methanosarcinales phylotype were found exclusively in high-temperature chimneys, while a phylotype of anaerobic methanotrophic Archaea (ANME-1) was restricted to lower-temperature, less vigorously venting sites. A hyperthermophilic habitat beneath the LCHF may be reflected by 16S rRNA gene sequences belonging to Thermococcales and uncultured Crenarchaeota identified in vent fluids. The finding of a diverse microbial ecosystem supported by the interaction of high-temperature, high-pH fluids resulting from serpentinization reactions in the subsurface provides insight into the biogeochemistry of what may be a pervasive process in ultramafic subseafloor environments. (+info