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Thermal limit for metazoan life in question: In vivo heat tolerance of the Pompeii worm
Ravaux, J.; Hamel, G.; Zbinden, M.; Tasiemski, A.A.; Boutet, I.; Léger, N.; Tanguy, A.; Jollivet, D.; Shillito, B. (2013). Thermal limit for metazoan life in question: In vivo heat tolerance of the Pompeii worm. PLoS One 8(5): 6 pp.
In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Ravaux, J.
  • Hamel, G.
  • Zbinden, M.
  • Tasiemski, A.A.
  • Boutet, I.
  • Léger, N.
  • Tanguy, A.
  • Jollivet, D.
  • Shillito, B.

    The thermal limit for metazoan life, expected to be around 50°C, has been debated since the discovery of the Pompeii worm Alvinella pompejana, which colonizes black smoker chimney walls at deep-sea vents. While indirect evidence predicts body temperatures lower than 50°C, repeated in situ temperature measurements depict an animal thriving at temperatures of 60°C and more. This controversy was to remain as long as this species escaped in vivo investigations, due to irremediable mortalities upon non-isobaric sampling. Here we report from the first heat-exposure experiments with live A. pompejana, following isobaric sampling and subsequent transfer in a laboratory pressurized aquarium. A prolonged (2 hours) exposure in the 50–55°C range was lethal, inducing severe tissue damages, cell mortalities and triggering a heat stress response, therefore showing that Alvinella’s upper thermal limit clearly is below 55°C. A comparison with hsp70 stress gene expressions of individuals analysed directly after sampling in situ confirms that Alvinella pompejana does not experience long-term exposures to temperature above 50°C in its natural environment. The thermal optimum is nevertheless beyond 42°C, which confirms that the Pompeii worm ranks among the most thermotolerant metazoans.

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