Rimicaris exoculata is a deep-sea hydrothermal vent shrimp whose enlarged gill chamber houses a complex trophic epibiotic community. Its gut harbours an autochthonous and distinct microbial community. This species dominates hydrothermal ecosystem megafauna along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, regardless of contrasting geochemical conditions prevailing in them. Here, the resident gut epibiont community at four contrasted hydrothermal vent sites (Rainbow, TAG, Logatchev and Ashadze) was analysed and compiled with previous data to evaluate the possible influence of site location, using 16S rRNA surveys and microscopic observations (transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and fluorescence in situ hybridization analyses). Filamentous epibionts inserted between the epithelial cell microvilli were observed on all examined samples. Results confirmed resident gut community affiliation to Deferribacteres, Mollicutes, Epsilonproteobacteria and to a lesser extent Gammaproteobacteria lineages. Still a single Deferribacteres phylotype was retrieved at all sites. Four Mollicutes-related operational taxonomic units were distinguished, one being only identified on Rainbow specimens. The topology of ribotype median-joining networks illustrated a community diversification possibly following demographic expansions, suggesting a more ancient evolutionary history and/or a larger effective population size at Rainbow. Finally, the gill chamber community distribution was also analysed through ribotype networks based on sequences from R. exoculata collected at the Rainbow, Snake Pit, TAG, Logatchev and Ashadze sites. Results allow the refining of hypotheses on the epibiont role and transmission pathways.
Keywords: epibiont; extreme environments; network analyses; phylogeography.
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