Deep-sea hydrothermal-vent habitats are typically linear, discontinuous, and short-lived. Some of the vent fauna such as the endemic polychaete family Alvinellidae are thought to lack a planktotrophic larval stage and therefore not to broadcast-release their offspring. The genetic evidence points to exchanges on a scale that seems to contradict this type of reproductive pattern. However, the rift valley may topographically rectify the bottom currents, thereby facilitating the dispersal of propagules between active vent sites separated in some cases by 10s of kilometers or more along the ridge axis. A propagule flux model based on a matrix OF intersite distances, long-term current-mete] data, and information on the biology and ecology of Alvinellidae was developed to test this hypothesis. Calculations of the number of migrants exchanged between two populations per generation (N,,,) allowed comparisons with estimates obtained from genetic studies. N,,, displays a logarithmic decrease with increasing dispersal duration and reaches the critical value of 1 after 8 d when the propagule flux model was run in standard conditions. At most, propagule traveling time cannot reasonably exceed 15-30 d, according to the model, whereas reported distances between sites would require longer lasting dispersal abilities. Two nonexclusive explanations are proposed. First, some aspects of the biology of Alvinellidae have been overlooked and long-distance dispersal does occur. Second, such dispersal never occurs in Alvinellidae, but the spatial-temporal dynamics of vent sites over geological timescale
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