Extremely rapid mineralisation of Alvinella tubes at hydrothermal vents: implications for polychaete evolutionary history.

Polychaete tubeworms are an abundant and diverse component of hydrothermal vent and cold seep ecosystems. Currently very little is known about their evolutionary history within these environments, such as over what timescales they were able to adapt to a mode of life based on chemosynthesis and to the extreme conditions associated with vents and seeps. The tubes produced by these polychaetes are one of few robust features produced by annelids that are capable of becoming preserved as fossils, and may therefore hold important clues as to how members of this major animal phylum were able to colonise even these seemingly inhospitable environments. Fossil tubes are quite commonly encountered in deposits representing ancient chemosynthetic sites, and rapid mineralisation processes occurring at these localities are a pathway through which the tubes of these worms may become preserved within the fossil record. However, presently very little is known about how these processes act to completely replace a tube. Recent experiments have shown that the tubes of alvinellids at vents can become entirely mineralised within the timescale of just one year. Preliminary results outlining the progression of mineral replacement for these tubes will be presented, as well as the implications for the evolutionary history of the tube-forming polychaetes at chemosynthetic sites.

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First Name: 
Magdalena N.
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+44(0) 113 34 31377
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds LS2 9JT, and Life Sciences Department, Natural History Museum London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
First Name: 
Crispin T. S.
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School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds LS2 9JT United Kingdom
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Adrian G.
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Life Sciences Department, Natural History Museum London SW7 5BD United Kingdom
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Evolutionary history (fossil and molecular data)
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