Sediment distribution, hydrolytic enzyme profiles and bacterial activities in the guts of Oneirophanta mutabilis, Psychropotes longicauda and Pseudostichopus - what do they tell us about digestive strategies of abyssal holothurians?

David Roberts, Heather Moore, J. Berges, J. Patching, M. Carton, D. Eardley

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33 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes inter-specific differences in the distribution of sediment in the gut compartments and in the enzyme and bacterial profiles along the gut of abyssal holothurian species — Oneirophanta mutabilis, Psychropotes longicauda and Pseudostichopus villosus sampled from a eutrophic site in the NE Atlantic at different times of the year. Proportions of sediments, relative to total gut contents, in the pharynx, oesophagus, anterior and posterior intestine differed significantly in all the inter-species comparisons, but not between inter-seasonal comparisons. Significant differences were also found between the relative proportions of sediments in both the rectum and cloaca of Psychropotes longicauda and Oneirophanta mutabilis. Nineteen enzymes were identified in either gut-tissue or gut-content samples of the holothurians studied. Concentrations of the enzymes in gut tissues and their contents were highly correlated. Greater concentrations of the enzymes were found in the gut tissues suggesting that they are the main source of the enzymes. The suites of enzymes recorded were broadly similar in each of the species sampled collected regardless of the time of the year, and they were similar to those described previously for shallow-water holothurians. Significant inter-specific differences in the gut tissue concentrations of some of the glycosidases suggest dietary differences. For example, Psychropotes longicauda and Pseudostichopus villosus contain higher levels of chitobiase than Oneirophanta mutabilis. There were no seasonal changes in bacterial activity profiles along the guts of O. mutabilis and Pseudostichopus villosus. In both these species bacterial activity and abundance declined between the pharynx/oesophagus and anterior intestine, but then increased along the gut and became greatest in the rectum/cloaca. Although the data sets were more limited for Psychropotes longicauda, bacterial activity increased from the anterior to the posterior intestine but then declined slightly to the rectum/cloaca. These changes in bacterial activity and densities probably reflect changes in the microbial environment along the guts of abyssal holothurians. Such changes suggest that there is potential for microbial breakdown of a broader range of substrates than could be otherwise be achieved by the holothurian itself. However, the present study found no evidence for sedimentary (microbial) sources of hydrolytic enzymes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-458
Number of pages16
JournalProgress In Oceanography
Volume50 (1-4)
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology
  • Oceanography


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