Hypotaurine and thiotaurine as indicators of sulfide exposure in bivalves and vestimentiferans from hydrothermal vents and cold seeps


Paul H. Yancey, Biology Department, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA.
E-mail: yancey@whitman.edu


Vesicomyid clams, vestimentiferans, and some bathymodiolin mussels from hydrothermal vents and cold seeps possess thiotrophic endosymbionts, high levels of hypotaurine and, in tissues with symbionts, thiotaurine. The latter, a product of hypotaurine and sulfide, may store and/or transport sulfide non-toxically, and the ratio to hypotaurine plus thiotaurine (Th/[H + Th]) may reflect an animal's sulfide exposure. To test this, we analyzed seep and vent animals with in situ sulfide measurements. Calyptogena kilmeri clams occur at high-sulfide seeps in Monterey Canyon, while C. (Vesicomya) pacifica clams occur at seeps with lower levels but take up and metabolize sulfide more effectively. From one seep where they co-occur, both had gill thiotaurine contents at 22–25 mmol kg−1 wet mass, and while C. (V.) pacifica had a higher blood sulfide level, it had a lower Th/[H + Th] (0.39) than C. kilmeri (0.63). However, these same species from different seeps with lower sulfide exposures had lower ratios. Bathymodiolus thermophilus [East Pacific Rise (EPR 9°50′ N)] from high-(84 μm) and a low-(7 μm) sulfide vents had gill ratios of 0.40 and 0.12, respectively. Trophosomes of Riftia pachyptila (EPR 9°50′ N) from medium-(33 μm) and low-(4 μm) sulfide vents had ratios of 0.23 and 0.20, respectively (not significantly different). Ridgeia piscesae vestimentiferans (Juan de Fuca Ridge) have very different phenotypes at high- and low-sulfide sites, and their trophosomes had the greatest differences: 0.81 and 0.04 ratios from high- and low-sulfide sites, respectively. Thus Th/[H + Th] may indicate sulfide exposure levels within species, but not in interspecies comparisons, possibly due to phylogenetic and metabolic differences. Total H + Th was constant within each species (except in R. piscesae); the sum may indicate the maximum potential sulfide load that a species faces.