Chemosynthetic Mussels at a Brine-Filled Pockmark in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Science  01 Jun 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4959, pp. 1096-1099
DOI: 10.1126/science.248.4959.1096


A large (540 square meters) bed of Bathymodiolus n. sp. (Mytilidae: Bivalvia) rings a pool of hypersaline (121.35 practical salinity units) brine at a water depth of 650 meters on the continental slope south of Louisiana. The anoxic brine (dissolved oxygen ≤0.17 milliliters per liter) contains high concentrations of methane, which nourishes methanotrophic symbionts in the mussels. The brine, which originates from a salt-cored diapir that penetrates to within 500 meters ofthe sea floor, fills a depression that was evidently excavated by escaping gas. The spatial continuity of the mussel bed indicates that the brine level has remained fairly constant; however, demographic differences between the inner and outer parts of the bed record small fluctuations.

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