Micro-CT 3D imaging reveals the internal structure of three abyssal xenophyophore species (Protista, Foraminifera) from the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean

Andrew J. Gooday, Dan Sykes, Tomasz Góral, Mikhail V. Zubkov, Adrian G. Glover

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Xenophyophores, giant foraminifera, are distinctive members of the deep-sea megafauna that accumulate large masses of waste material (‘stercomare’) within their agglutinated tests, and organise their cells as branching strands enclosed within an organic tube (the ‘granellare’ system). Using non-destructive, three-dimensional micro-CT imaging we explored these structures in three species from the abyssal eastern Pacific Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ). In Psammina spp., the low-density stercomare occupied much of the test interior, while high-density granellare strands branched throughout the structure. In Galatheammina sp. the test comprised a mixture of stercomare and test particles, with the granellare forming a web-like system of filaments. The granellare occupied 2.8–5.1%, the stercomare 72.4–82.4%, and test particles 14.7–22.5%, of the ‘body’ volume in the two Psammina species. The corresponding proportions in Galatheammina sp. were 1.7% (granellare), 39.5% (stercomare) and 58.8% (test particles). These data provide a potential basis for estimating the contribution of xenophyophores to seafloor biomass in areas like the CCZ where they dominate the megafauna. As in most xenophyophore species, the granellare hosted huge numbers of tiny barite crystals. We speculate that these help to support the extensive granellare system, as well as reducing the cell volume and lightening the metabolic burden required to maintain it.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12103
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018


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