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Keywords:

  • Acesta bullisi;
  • Acesta excavata;
  • bivalve;
  • cold seep;
  • continuous spawning;
  • deep sea;
  • reproduction

Abstract

We have studied two congeneric limid bivalves, Acesta species novum and Acesta excavata (Bivalvia: Limidae), that live in similar physical conditions but use different food sources. Acesta sp. nov. live on the giant siboglinid tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi at cold seeps and feed on their eggs, a continuous food source that ultimately is derived from chemosynthesis, whereas A. excavata relies on planktonic food of photosynthetic origin, which varies seasonally. We hypothesized that these two species might show differences in the periodicity of reproduction; specifically, we predicted that A. sp. nov. would breed continuously and that A. excavata would demonstrate an annual reproductive cycle. Our hypothesis was refuted, as both species have a semi-continuous reproductive cycle. Food quality, quantity or seasonality had no clear effect. Reproductive adults are functionally gonochoristic. Females broadcast buoyant eggs with an average size of 179 μm in A. sp. nov. and 160 μm in A. excavata. Both the size of the larval shell and the size of the spawned eggs are suggestive of pelagic lecithotrophic development. Both species also appear to be protandric hermaphrodites, changing from male to female at approximately 77 and 90 mm shell height, respectively, although not all individuals change sex. In the material investigated in this study there was a biased sex ratio favouring males.