Exploring the Biology of Alvinella using Isobaric Sampling and Transfer : the BALIST system

Gérard Hamel2, Juliette Ravaux1, Magali Zbinden1, Aurélie A. Tasiemski3, Isabelle Boutet4, Nelly Léger1, Arnaud Tanguy4, Didier Jollivet4 & Bruce Shillito1

1 Université Pierre et Marie Curie - Paris 06, UMR 7138 CNRS UPMC MNHN ENS IRD, Adaptations aux Milieux Extrêmes, 7 Quai St-Bernard, 75005 Paris, France.
2 UMR 7590 UPMC CNRS, Institut de Minéralogie et de Physique des Milieux Condensés, 4 Place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France.
3 Université de Lille1, UMR 8198 CNRS, GEPV Ecoimmunology of Marine Annelids, 59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq, France
4 Station Biologique de Roscoff, UMR 7144 UPMC CNRS, Génétique de l’Adaptation en Milieux Extrêmes, Place Georges Teissier, 29682 Roscoff, France.

The thermal limit for metazoan life, expected to be around 50°C, has been debated since the discovery of the Pompeii worm Alvinella pompejana, which colonizes black smoker chimney walls at deep-sea vents. While indirect evidence predict body temperatures lower than 50°C, repeated in situ temperature measurements depict an animal thriving at temperatures of 60°C and more. This controversy was to remain as long as this species escaped in vivo investigations, due to irremediable mortalities upon non-isobaric sampling. Accordingly, an isobaric sampling system was developed, which additionally allows isobaric transfer in a laboratory pressurized aquarium named BALIST. Here we describe this equipment and its operation at sea, and report from the first heat-exposure experiments with live A. pompejana.

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