Genetic connectivity between north and south Mid-Atlantic Ridge chemosynthetic bivalves and their symbionts

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e39994. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039994. Epub 2012 Jul 6.


Transform faults are geological structures that interrupt the continuity of mid-ocean ridges and can act as dispersal barriers for hydrothermal vent organisms. In the equatorial Atlantic Ocean, it has been hypothesized that long transform faults impede gene flow between the northern and the southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) and disconnect a northern from a southern biogeographic province. To test if there is a barrier effect in the equatorial Atlantic, we examined phylogenetic relationships of chemosynthetic bivalves and their bacterial symbionts from the recently discovered southern MAR hydrothermal vents at 5°S and 9°S. We examined Bathymodiolus spp. mussels and Abyssogena southwardae clams using the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene as a phylogenetic marker for the hosts and the bacterial 16S rRNA gene as a marker for the symbionts. Bathymodiolus spp. from the two southern sites were genetically divergent from the northern MAR species B. azoricus and B. puteoserpentis but all four host lineages form a monophyletic group indicating that they radiated after divergence from their northern Atlantic sister group, the B. boomerang species complex. This suggests dispersal of Bathymodiolus species from north to south across the equatorial belt. 16S rRNA genealogies of chemoautotrophic and methanotrophic symbionts of Bathymodiolus spp. were inconsistent and did not match the host COI genealogy indicating disconnected biogeography patterns. The vesicomyid clam Abyssogena southwardae from 5°S shared an identical COI haplotype with A. southwardae from the Logatchev vent field on the northern MAR and their symbionts shared identical 16S phylotypes, suggesting gene flow across the Equator. Our results indicate genetic connectivity between the northern and southern MAR and suggest that a strict dispersal barrier does not exist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bivalvia / classification
  • Bivalvia / genetics*
  • Bivalvia / microbiology*
  • Ecosystem
  • Genes, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Haplotypes
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seawater / microbiology
  • Symbiosis*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF008279
  • GENBANK/AF008280
  • GENBANK/AF114401
  • GENBANK/AF114403
  • GENBANK/AY649794
  • GENBANK/DQ513448
  • GENBANK/DQ513450
  • GENBANK/EU403435
  • GENBANK/FJ766849
  • GENBANK/FJ766857
  • GENBANK/FJ766870
  • GENBANK/JQ844761
  • GENBANK/JQ844766
  • GENBANK/JQ844767
  • GENBANK/JQ844771
  • GENBANK/JQ844772
  • GENBANK/JQ844774
  • GENBANK/JQ844775
  • GENBANK/JQ844776
  • GENBANK/JQ844777
  • GENBANK/JQ844778
  • GENBANK/JQ844779
  • GENBANK/JQ844780
  • GENBANK/JQ844781
  • GENBANK/JQ844782
  • GENBANK/JQ844783
  • GENBANK/JQ844785
  • GENBANK/JQ844786
  • GENBANK/JQ844787
  • GENBANK/JQ844788
  • GENBANK/JQ844798
  • GENBANK/JQ844807
  • GENBANK/JQ844808
  • GENBANK/JQ844817
  • GENBANK/JQ844818
  • GENBANK/JQ844832
  • GENBANK/JQ844833
  • GENBANK/JQ844834
  • GENBANK/JQ844854