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Life on the edge: hydrogen sulfide and the fish communities of a Mexican cave and surrounding waters


Tobler, Michael; Schlupp, Ingo; Heubel, Katja U; Riesch, Rüdiger; de León, Francisco J García; Giere, Olav; Plath, Martin (2006). Life on the edge: hydrogen sulfide and the fish communities of a Mexican cave and surrounding waters. Extremophiles: life under extreme conditions, 10(6):577-585.

Abstract

Most eucaryotic organisms classified as living in an extreme habitat are invertebrates. Here we report of a fish living in a Mexican cave (Cueva del Azufre) that is rich in highly toxic H2S. We compared the water chemistry and fish communities of the cave and several nearby surface streams. Our study revealed high concentrations of H2S in the cave and its outflow (El Azufre). The concentrations of H2S reach more than 300μM inside the cave, which are acutely toxic for most fishes. In both sulfidic habitats, the diversity of fishes was heavily reduced, and Poecilia mexicana was the dominant species indicating that the presence of H2S has an all-or-none effect, permitting only few species to survive in sulfidic habitats. Compared to habitats without H2S, P. mexicana from the cave and the outflow have a significantly lower body condition. Although there are microhabitats with varying concentrations of H2S within the cave, we could not find a higher fish density in areas with lower concentrations of H2S. We discuss that P. mexicana is one of the few extremophile vertebrates. Our study supports the idea that extreme habitats lead to an impoverished species diversity

Abstract

Most eucaryotic organisms classified as living in an extreme habitat are invertebrates. Here we report of a fish living in a Mexican cave (Cueva del Azufre) that is rich in highly toxic H2S. We compared the water chemistry and fish communities of the cave and several nearby surface streams. Our study revealed high concentrations of H2S in the cave and its outflow (El Azufre). The concentrations of H2S reach more than 300μM inside the cave, which are acutely toxic for most fishes. In both sulfidic habitats, the diversity of fishes was heavily reduced, and Poecilia mexicana was the dominant species indicating that the presence of H2S has an all-or-none effect, permitting only few species to survive in sulfidic habitats. Compared to habitats without H2S, P. mexicana from the cave and the outflow have a significantly lower body condition. Although there are microhabitats with varying concentrations of H2S within the cave, we could not find a higher fish density in areas with lower concentrations of H2S. We discuss that P. mexicana is one of the few extremophile vertebrates. Our study supports the idea that extreme habitats lead to an impoverished species diversity

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:National licences > 142-005
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Microbiology
Life Sciences > Molecular Medicine
Language:English
Date:1 December 2006
Deposited On:14 Dec 2018 17:49
Last Modified:15 Apr 2021 14:53
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1431-0651
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00792-006-0531-2

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