Do ampharetids take sedimented steps between vents and seeps? Phylogeny and habitat-use of Ampharetidae (Annelida, Terebelliformia) in chemosynthesis-based ecosystems
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Background: A range of higher animal taxa are shared across various chemosynthesis-based ecosystems (CBEs), which demonstrates the evolutionary link between these habitats, but on a global scale the number of species inhabiting multiple CBEs is low. The factors shaping the distributions and habitat specificity of animals within CBEs are poorly understood, but geographic proximity of habitats, depth and substratum have been suggested as important. Biogeographic studies have indicated that intermediate habitats such as sedimented vents play an important part in the diversification of taxa within CBEs, but this has not been assessed in a phylogenetic framework. Ampharetid annelids are one of the most commonly encountered animal groups in CBEs, making them a good model taxon to study the evolution of habitat use in heterotrophic animals. Here we present a review of the habitat use of ampharetid species in CBEs, and a multi-gene phylogeny of Ampharetidae, with increased taxon sampling compared to previous studies.
Results: The review of microhabitats showed that many ampharetid species have a wide niche in terms of temperature and substratum. Depth may be limiting some species to a certain habitat, and trophic ecology and/or competition are identified as other potentially relevant factors. The phylogeny revealed that ampharetids have adapted into CBEs at least four times independently, with subsequent diversification, and shifts between ecosystems have happened in each of these clades. Evolutionary transitions are found to occur both from seep to vent and vent to seep, and the results indicate a role of sedimented vents in the transition between bare-rock vents and seeps.
Conclusion: The high number of ampharetid species recently described from CBEs, and the putative new species included in the present phylogeny, indicates that there is considerable diversity still to be discovered. This study provides a molecular framework for future studies to build upon and identifies some ecological and evolutionary hypotheses to be tested as new data is produced.