The MigPat project aims to trace pathways of migration of molluscs into and between deep-seach emosynthetic ecosystems, using evidence from the fossil record. Chemosynthetic ecosystems are characterized by their dependence on geochemical energy sources, largely hydrogen sulphide and methane, rather than photosynthesis, as most other marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Such ecosystems are known from hydrothermal vents, cold hydrocarbon seeps, sunken whale carcasses, and sunken driftwood. We will use molluscs as a test case because they are abundant and diverse in fossil and recent chemosynthetic ecosystems and they have been used in most molecular biological studies on migration pathways into these habitats. This will make our results comparable to those of earlier studies.
To achieve our aims, we will use the extremely rich and diversified fossil record of chemosynthetic ecosystems in Washington State, USA, that spans the last 50 million years. We will compile a database of molluscan species in this area, which will comprise data on their taxonomy, stratigraphie occurrences, habitats, and ecology, as a base for all further investigations. To assess migration pathways we will determine relationships between species and compare their habitats, including recent species living at vents, seeps, whale-, and wood-falls just offshore the study area. In addition, we will analyse the ranges of species in geological time.
By comparing the ranges of species from chemosynthetic habitats to those from normal marine habitats we can test th e hypothesis that deep-sea vents and seeps serve as a refuge for 'ancient' taxa, and an alternative hypothesis that rapid bursts of adaptation and extinction have occurred. We will also assess how many of the species found in fossil chemosynthetic localities are occasional intruders that failed to establish themselves here.
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