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Bacterial endosymbionts in the gills of the deep-sea wood-boring bivalves Xylophaga atlantica and Xylophaga washingtona
Distel, D.L.; Roberts, S.J. (1997). Bacterial endosymbionts in the gills of the deep-sea wood-boring bivalves Xylophaga atlantica and Xylophaga washingtona. Biol. Bull. 192(2): 253-261
In: Biological Bulletin. Marine Biological Laboratory: Lancaster. ISSN 0006-3185, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Distel, D.L.
  • Roberts, S.J.

Abstract
    Bacterial endosymbionts found in gill tissues in several bivalve families convert otherwise unavailable energy sources (sulfide, methane, or cellulose) to forms readily metabolized by their hosts. We investigated the existence of such a symbiosis in two species of Xylophaga (family Pholadidae). The genus Xylophaga includes opportunistic species that are the predominant colonizers of wood at depths greater than 150 m. It has been hypothesized that, like their shallow-water counterparts the shipworms (family Teredinidae), species of Xylophaga utilize wood for nutrition. Results from transmission and scanning electron microscopy of X. atlantica and X. washingtona clearly demonstrate the presence of endosymbionts that resemble the shipworm endosymbionts both morphologically and in their anatomical location within the gills. Xylophaga and the teredinids both have a caecum packed with wood chips but lack the dense populations of microorganisms associated with cellulose digestion in termites or ruminants. These observations suggest that Xylophaga has evolved a symbiotic solution to wood digestion similar to that seen in shipworms. Hence, the Xylophaga symbiosis suggests a mechanism for the conversion of terrestrially derived cellulosic carbon from wood into animal biomass in the deep sea.

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