Patterns of growth in cold-seep vestimenferans including Seepiophila jonesi: a second species of long-lived tubeworm


Erik E. Cordes, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department, Harvard University, 16 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Seepiophila jonesi is a vestimentiferan tubeworm (Siboglinidae: Polychaeta) inhabiting the cold seeps of the upper slope of the Gulf of Mexico. It commonly co-occurs with Lamellibrachia luymesi, which is among the most long-lived non-clonal animals known. The growth pattern of S. jonesi is best described by a model including a size-specific probability of growth and an average growth rate that does not vary with individual size. This model, based on growth data from in situ staining and collection approximately 1 year later, predicts that S. jonesi is very slow growing and may attain ages comparable with L. luymesi. The efficacy of this model in describing L. luymesi growth rate was assessed, but the previously employed model of declining growth rate with individual size provided the better fit to the empirical data. Comparisons of both S. jonesi and L. luymesi growth rates among sites and among aggregations within a site indicate that there is some degree of habitat variability contributing to differences in growth rates. However, position of the anterior end of the worm within an aggregation did not have a significant effect on growth rate in comparisons among groups of L. luymesi from different distances from the center of an aggregation. The evolution of longevity in these species of vestimentiferans was favored by the relative stability of the seep habitat and sulfide sources, in contrast to the hydrothermal vent environment inhabited by relatively short-lived and fast-growing vestimentiferan species.