Project proposal details

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Project title
Taxonomy and palaeoecology of a 50,000-year-old methane seep community from the Indian Ocean
Contact name
Crispin Little
Contact email
Project based at
Natural History Museum
Imperial contact email
Project description
Methane seeps are sites on the modern sea floor where methane rises up through thick sequences of sediments onto the seafloor. This methane is used as a nutrition source for chemosynthetic prokaryotic organisms. These act as primary producers for highly unusual animal communities, which are most similar to hydrothermal vent communities in their taxonomic structure and ecological functioning. Many animals at methane seeps form symbiotic relationships with chemosynthetic bacteria, which allows them to grow particularly large for deep-sea animals. Seep communities have now been found in all the World’s oceans, and also have a fossil record. However, one significant biogeographic gap in our knowledge of both modern and ancient seep communities is the Indian Ocean. Recently a single active methane seep community has been discovered from the Krishna-Godavari (K-G) Basin, off the East coast of India, and from the same area a fossil seep community that is around 50,000-years-old was found. The fossil seep community comprises shells of goose barnacles (cirripedes), and a large diversity of bivalves and gastropods. Only the former have been described.

Aims and methods
The project aims to taxonomically describe the mollusc species from the fossil KG Basin seep using their shells, imaged by SEM for the small specimens. By comparison with living related taxa the palaeoecology of the fossil KG Basin seep community will then be reconstructed. Following this the fossil KG Basin seep community will be compared to the modern seep community in the same area to look for temporal community changes and also biogeogeographic trends using data from seep communities outside of the Indian Ocean area.

Supervisory arrangements
The analytical work will be performed at the Natural History Museum, under supervision of the project leader, Dr Crispin Little, and NHM staff (Dr Adrian Glover).
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Suitable for
Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc], Biosystematics [NHM MRes]