Do Hydrothermal Shrimp Smell Vents?

Type Article
Date 2021-11
Language English
Author(s) Ravaux Juliette1, Machon Julia1, Shillito Bruce1, Barthélémy Dominique2, Amand Louis1, Cabral Mélanie1, Delcour Elise1, Zbinden MagaliORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Laboratoire de Biologie des Organismes et Ecosystèmes Aquatiques (BOREA), MNHN, CNRS-2030, IRD-207, Sorbonne Université, UCN, UA, 7 Quai Saint-Bernard, Bâtiment A, 4e étage, 75005 Paris, France
2 : Océanopolis, Port de Plaisance du Moulin Blanc BP 91039, CEDEX 1, 29210 Brest, France
Source Insects (2075-4450) (MDPI AG), 2021-11 , Vol. 12 , N. 11 , P. 1043 (29p.)
DOI 10.3390/insects12111043
WOS© Times Cited 1
Note This article belongs to the Collection Insect Senses: From Perception to Cognition
Keyword(s) hydrothermal shrimp, olfaction, chemosensory perception, thermal detection, grooming, behavior, antennules

Simple Summary

Chemical senses play a crucial role in mediating fundamental behaviors in most animals, including habitat selection and navigation. In the darkness of the deep sea, do shrimp endemic to hydrothermal vents use these senses to locate active emissions? Here, we examine the olfactory behaviors of two species of vent shrimp and one coastal species for comparison, to determine whether hydrothermal species have functional olfactory capacities and respond to environmental cues. Among these cues, food odors and vent fluid markers (chemicals, as well as temperature) were tested. Such in vivo experiments on deep-sea fauna are challenging to conduct because the animals sampled at depth may suffer from decompression. We, therefore, used dedicated pressurized equipment, and designed experiments at both deep-sea and atmospheric pressure. Vent shrimp groom their olfactory organs similarly to other crustaceans, yet they bear a dense bacterial cover, raising questions about the role of bacteria in shrimp olfaction. Whilst hydrothermal shrimp have been shown to possess a functional sense of smell, none of our test setups allowed us to demonstrate significant attraction to odors. Both hydrothermal species, however, showed attraction to warm temperature emissions, supporting the hypothesis that temperature is a major cue for orientation in the hydrothermal environment.


Deep-sea species endemic to hydrothermal vents face the critical challenge of detecting active sites in a vast environment devoid of sunlight. This certainly requires specific sensory abilities, among which olfaction could be a relevant sensory modality, since chemical compounds in hydrothermal fluids or food odors could potentially serve as orientation cues. The temperature of the vent fluid might also be used for locating vent sites. The objective of this study is to observe the following key behaviors of olfaction in hydrothermal shrimp, which could provide an insight into their olfactory capacities: (1) grooming behavior; (2) attraction to environmental cues (food odors and fluid markers). We designed experiments at both deep-sea and atmospheric pressure to assess the behavior of the vent shrimp Rimicaris exoculata and Mirocaris fortunata, as well as of the coastal species Palaemon elegans and Palaemon serratus for comparison. Here, we show that hydrothermal shrimp groom their sensory appendages similarly to other crustaceans, but this does not clean the dense bacterial biofilm that covers the olfactory structures. These shrimp have previously been shown to possess functional sensory structures, and to detect the environmental olfactory signals tested, but we do not observe significant attraction behavior here. Only temperature, as a signature of vent fluids, clearly attracts vent shrimp and thus is confirmed to be a relevant signal for orientation in their environment.

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