Molecular Ecology of Marine and Aquatic Organisms
Lead Scientist: Robert Vrijenhoek
Building on their discovery of Osedax, the bone-eating worms on dead whales, Vrijenhoek’s group plans to sink additional whale carcasses to replenish those already consumed by scavengers. They will also deploy the bones of other species (cows, tuna, etc.) to test how specific the Osedax diet might be. Use of the Deep Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) to detect Osedax larvae, demonstrated for the first time in 2007, may become an important tool for determining the dispersal strategy of this unusual animal. Vrijenhoek’s group also has a major involvement in the Gulf of California expedition. There they will work with chemists, geologists, and biologists to test whether the patchy distribution of bacterial symbionts hosted by tubeworms is controlled by environmental conditions, or by chance, due to the limited opportunity for dispersal in a viscous medium.