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The ocean is not deep enough: pressure tolerances during early ontogeny of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis

By N.C. Mestre, S. Thatje and P.A. Tyler


Early ontogenetic adaptations reflect the evolutionary history of a species. To understand the evolution of the deep-sea fauna and its adaptation to high-pressure, it is important to know the effects of pressure on their shallow-water relatives. In this study we analyse the temperature and pressure tolerances of early life history stages of the shallow-water species Mytilus edulis. This species expresses a close phylogenetic relationship with hydrothermal-vent mussels of the subfamily Bathymodiolinae. Tolerances to pressure and temperature are defined in terms of fertilisation success and embryo developmental rates in laboratory-based experiments. In Mytilus edulis, successful fertilisation under pressure is possible up to 500atm (50.66MPa), at 10 ºC, 15 ºC and 20 ºC. A slower embryonic development is observed with decreasing temperature and with increasing pressure; principally, pressure narrows the physiological tolerance window in different ontogenetic stages of M. edulis, and slows down metabolism. This study provides important clues on possible evolutionary pathways of hydrothermal vent and cold-seep bivalve species and their shallow-water relatives. Evolution and speciation patterns of species derive mostly from their ability to adapt to variable environmental conditions, within environmental constraints, which promote morphological and genetic variability, often differently for each life history stage. The present results support the view that a direct colonisation of deep-water hydrothermal vent environments by a cold-eurythermal shallow-water ancestor is indeed a possible scenario for the Mytilinae, challenging previous hypothesis of a wood/bone to seep/vent colonization pathway

Topics: QH301
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: e-Prints Soton

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