Mussel Growth Supported by Methane as Sole Carbon and Energy Source

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Science  01 Apr 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4848, pp. 78-80
DOI: 10.1126/science.240.4848.78


Symbioses between chemoautotrophic bacteria and several specialized marine invertebrates are well documented. However, none of these symbioses have been demonstrated to provide sufficient energy and carbon to the host to enable it to grow. Growth rates of seep mussels collected from hydrocarbon seeps off the coast of Louisiana were measured in a controlled environment where methane was the sole carbon and energy source. The growth rates increased to a maximum of 17.2 micrometers per day in response to methane and approached zero in the absence of methane. These mussels contain methanotrophic symbiotic bacteria in their gills, which suggests that these bacteria provide their hosts with a net carbon flux originating from methane.