Reproductive Patterns of Cold-Seep Mussels in the Gulf of Mexico and Northwestern Atlantic
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Continuous or semi-continuous reproduction is the norm in deep-sea animals, with exceptions explained by seasonal pulses of surface-derived phytodetritus. Chemosynthesis-based ecosystems such as cold seeps have an independent nutritional supply and are often thought of as decoupled from surface productivity. This thesis explores reproductive patterns of four bathymodiolin mussel species from 14 cold seeps (320 to 3300 m depth) in the Gulf of Mexico (2014) and the northwestern Atlantic (2015). Using paraffin histology, I determined maturity stages for male and oocyte sizes for female mussels. All species at all sites reproduced periodically and synchronously, with geographic synchrony among sites. This suggests that mussels rely on a site-independent cue such as seasonal phytodetrital flux to synchronize reproduction, providing evidence for a stronger coupling between surface productivity and chemosynthesis-based fauna than previously expected. Mature oocytes were of similar size for all species at all depths, suggesting that egg size is phylogenetically constrained.