Lipid profiles of deep-sea organisms
Lipids are a group of biologically important compounds that may be used as indicators of relationships between an organism and its environment. Lipid class composition identifies types of storage lipid which can suggest a pelagic or benthic existence and may be used to measure the condition of an organism. Fatty acid composition may reflect trophic ecology. Lipid profiling has been used to elucidate elements of the ecology of organisms from Mid-Atlantic and Juan de Fuca Ridge hydrothermal vents and shrimp from below a permanent oxygen minimum zone. Lipid profiles of these organisms from extreme deep-sea environments are compared. Lipid profiles of adult Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vent shrimp, Rimicaris exoculata. support a benthic existence and primarily chemoautotrophic bacterial nutrition. Postlarval alvinocarid shrimp lipid profiles suggest a pelagic life cycle stage with a reliance on phototrophically derived organic matter. This result supports previous molecular evidence that Rimicaris exoculata travels between hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The branchial area of Rimicaris exoculata has been reported to be colonised with bacteria and elevated levels of bacterial fatty acids are present in these tissues. Lipid analyses of the reproductive organs of Rimicaris exoculata reveal increases in triglycerides, sterols, phosphatidyl choline and the proportion of n-3 fatty acids with advancing reproductive maturity. Preliminary studies of the lipid profiles of the Mid-Atlantic vent shrimp Alvinocaris markensis support the hypothesis that it is a scavenger and contains a lower proportion of bacterially derived fatty acids. The lipid profiles of the deep-sea shrimp, Nematocarcinus gracilis, from the Indian Ocean, were consistent with a benthic lifestyle, opportunistic feeding and a reliance on phototrophically derived organic matter. Despite the presence of a permanent oxygen minimum zone above the habitat of the shrimp, Nematocarcinus gracilis contain low levels of highly unsaturated fatty acids, reflecting a reduction in the availability of labile organic matter with depth. The hydrothermal vent tube worm Ridgeia piscesae contains only low levels of storage lipid, reflecting an extreme reliance on endosymbiotic bacteria. Wax esters detected are thought to be stored in oocytes. The fatty acid profile of Ridgeia piscesae reveal mainly bacterial biomarker fatty acids, but some phototrophically derived fatty acids are also present. Adult Ridgeia piscesae have no gut, so the mechanism by which these fatty acids are assimilated is uncertain. Lipid profiles of the hydrothermal vent palm worm, Paralvinella palmiformis vary with the conditions of the different microenvironments in which specimens were found. Fatty acids reflect a mixed diet based mainly on chemoautotrophic bacteria, but with significant inputs of phototrophically derived organic matter, such as diatom debris. Phototrophically derived fatty acids were also detected in the hydrothermal vent clam Calyptogena pacifica. suggesting that the reduced filter-feeding ability of this species is used to supplement nutrition from endosymbiotic bacteria. Endosymbiont-bearing gill tissues contain the highest proportion of bacterial fatty acids and also high concentrations of triglycerides. The presence of triglycerides in gill tissues suggests that energy may be transferred from symbionts by hydrolysis of bacterial symbiont membrane lipids and their conversion to triglyceride. The lipid profiles presented in this work increase understanding of the life history strategies and ecology of the species studied. This thesis shows that even the most highly adapted hydrothermal vent organisms do not rely solely on a chemoautotrophic source of nutrition, but also appear to require phototrophically derived elements in their diet.