Foraging under extreme events: Contrasting adaptations by benthic macrofauna to drastic biogeochemical disturbance

1.  Hydrothermal vent systems are important biodiversity hotspots that host a vast
array of unique species and provide information on life's evolutionary adapta-
tions to extreme environments. However, these habitats are threatened by both
human exploitation and extreme natural events, both of which can rapidly disrupt
the delicate balance of the food webs found in these systems. This is particularly
true for shallow vent endemic animals due to their limited dietary niche and spe-
cialized adaptations to specific biogeochemical conditions.
2.  In  this  study,  we  used  the  shallow  hydrothermal  vents  of  Kueishantao  off  the
coast  of  Taiwan  as  a  natural  laboratory  to  examine  the  response  of  a  benthic
food web to a M5.8 earthquake and a C5 typhoon that led to a two- year “near
shutdown” of the vents. These perturbations drastically altered the local biogeo-
chemical cycle and the dietary availability of chemosynthetic versus photosyn-
thetic food resources.
3.  Our analysis of multiple stable isotopes, including those of sulphur, carbon, and
nitrogen  (δ 34 S,  δ 13 C,  and  δ 15 N),  from  different  benthic  macrofauna  reveals  that
endemic and non- endemic consumers exhibited different responses to sudden
disruption in habitat and biogeochemical cycling.
4.  The endemic vent crab, Xenograpsus testudinatus, continued to partially rely on
chemosynthetic sulphur bacteria despite photosynthetic sources being the most
dominant food source after the disruption. We posit that X. testudinatus has an
obligate nutritional dependence on chemoautotrophic [...]


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