Genetic diversity and connectivity of chemosynthetic cold seep mussels from the U.S. Atlantic margin

BMC Ecology & Evolution
By: , and 




Deep-sea mussels in the subfamily Bathymodiolinae have unique adaptations to colonize hydrothermal-vent and cold-seep environments throughout the world ocean. These invertebrates function as important ecosystem engineers, creating heterogeneous habitat and promoting biodiversity in the deep sea. Despite their ecological significance, efforts to assess the diversity and connectivity of this group are extremely limited. Here, we present the first genomic-scale diversity assessments of the recently discovered bathymodioline cold-seep communities along the U.S. Atlantic margin, dominated by Gigantidas childressi and Bathymodiolus heckerae.


A Restriction-site Associated DNA Sequencing (RADSeq) approach was used on 177 bathymodiolines to examine genetic diversity and population structure within and between seep sites. Assessments of genetic differentiation using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data revealed high gene flow among sites, with the shallower and more northern sites serving as source populations for deeper occurring G. childressi. No evidence was found for genetic diversification across depth in G. childressi, likely due to their high dispersal capabilities. Kinship analyses indicated a high degree of relatedness among individuals, and at least 10–20% of local recruits within a particular site. We also discovered candidate adaptive loci in G. childressi and B. heckerae that suggest differences in developmental processes and depth-related and metabolic adaptations to chemosynthetic environments.


These results highlight putative source communities for an important ecosystem engineer in the deep sea that may be considered in future conservation efforts. Our results also provide clues into species-specific adaptations that enable survival and potential speciation within chemosynthetic ecosystems.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Genetic diversity and connectivity of chemosynthetic cold seep mussels from the U.S. Atlantic margin
Series title BMC Ecology & Evolution
DOI 10.1186/s12862-022-02027-4
Volume 22
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, Eastern Ecological Science Center
Description 76, 16 p.
Country United States
Other Geospatial Atlantic Ocean, Baltimore Canyon Seep, Blake Ridge Seep, Chincoteague Seep, Norfolk Canyon Seep
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