Integrative taxonomy revisits the ontogeny and trophic niches of Rimicaris vent shrimps

Paru dans The Royal Society

Methou P., Michel L. N., Segonzac M., Cambon M. A., Pradillon F.

Among hydrothermal vent species, Rimicaris exoculata is one of the most emblematic, hosting abundant and diverse ectosymbioses that provide most of its nutrition. Rimicaris exoculata co-occurs in dense aggregates with the much less abundant Rimicaris chacei in many Mid-Atlantic Ridge vent fields. This second shrimp also houses ectosymbiotic microorganisms but has a mixotrophic diet. Recent observations have suggested potential misidentifications between these species at their juvenile stages, which could have led to misinterpretations of their early-life ecology. Here, we confirm erroneous identification of the earliest stages and propose a new set of morphological characters unambiguously identifying juveniles of each species. On the basis of this reassessment, combined use of C, N and S stable isotope ratios reveals distinct ontogenic trophic niche shifts in both species, from photosynthesis-based nutrition before settlement, towards a chemosynthetic diet afterwards. Furthermore, isotopic compositions in the earliest juvenile stages suggest differences in larval histories. Each species thus exhibits specific early-life strategies that would, without our re-examination, have been interpreted as ontogenetic variations. Overall, our results provide a good illustration of the identification issues persisting in deep-sea ecosystems and the importance of integrative taxonomy in providing an accurate view of fundamental aspects of the biology and ecology of species inhabiting these environments.