Intermediary metabolism and shell growth in the brachiopod Terebratalia transversa



Juvenile Terebratalia transversa (Brachiopoda) metabolize carbohydrates in the anterior-most marginal mantle at a rate of 0.46 μM glucose/g/hr (in vitro incubation of mantle in C14-glucose in a carrying medium of 10-3 M non-radioactive glucose). The rate declines to 0.18μM glucose/g/hr in full-grown specimens. Carbohydrate metabolism in the marginal (anterior-most) mantle averages approximately 3.7 times greater than metabolism in (a portion of the ‘posterior’) mantle situated between the coelomic canals and the marginal mantle. This ratio remains constant in specimens of all sizes (i.e. an ontogenetic trend in the ratio is absent at p≤ 0.05). Organic acids are not detectable within the mantle (HPLC techniques) even after simulated anoxia (N2 bubbling during mantle incubation). Glucose metabolism in vitro declines in both the marginal and ‘posterior’ mantles during anoxia and the metabolic ratio between marginal/‘posterior’ mantles becomes 1/1. We found no difference (at p≤ 0.05) in mean metabolic activity or in sue-related metabolic trends among populations from depths ranging between mean sea level and 70 m. However, the activity within the ‘posterior’ mantle was more variable in specimens from 70 m than in those from shallower habitats (10 m - mean sea level). The size of the specimens analyzed was most variable in the groups obtained from the shallowest habitats and least variable at 70 m depth. Our results may help define the energetics of fossil as well as living brachiopod shell growth. Brachiopod shell growth is known to be very slow relative to that of bivalves and our results indicate that this is a result of the animals' slow metabolism. The inflation of the valves in T. transversa is, in part, a function of the high ratio of intermediary metabolism in the marginal vs‘posterior’ mantle (i.e. parallels the relative growth rates at the shell margin vs‘posterior’ areas). We found that the bivalve, Chlamys hastata, which is commonly associated with T. transversa, has a lower ratio of metabolic activities in the ventral/dorsal mantle areas than the brachiopod has in the anterior/posterior. The difference produces a flatter shell in the bivalve in accord with allometric principles. The higher metabolic rate in the marginal vs‘posterior’ brachiopod mantle and its more pronounced decline with anaerobiosis is reflected in the greater definition of growth increments in the outer shell layer. Our results do not support recent generalizations that correlate shell thickness of a wide variety of invertebrates inversely with metabolic rate. Growth rate as determined from width of shell growth increments is a better index of metabolic rate. Although the genetic basis of glucose metabolism is unknown, the observed metabolic variability is consistent with suggestions that populations of marine organisms living in stable offshore environments are genetically more variable but morphologically more uniform than populations from shallow water. Furthermore, our results support suggestions that bivalved molluscs and brachiopods are very different metabolically, but the data are neutral with respect to theories of competitive exclusion of the two taxa throughout geologic history.