A priming effect of benthic gastropod mucus on sedimentary organic matter remineralization

Angelos K Hannides, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC, United States and Robert C Aller, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, United States
Mucous gels are produced by benthic animals rapidly and in copious amounts, and have previously been shown to significantly affect diffusion rates of redox-sensitive ions and organic compounds in sediment pore waters. They are also a highly likely priming substrate whose addition in modest amounts affects sedimentary organic matter remineralization. We tested the priming effect of benthic infaunal mucus using secretions of the common gastropod Neverita duplicata as model substrate. Their composition is typical of marine molluscan mucus, consisting primarily of water (>96% by weight), which is in relative equilibrium with seawater. Salt-free dry weight constitutes 0.7% and 0.6% of total pedal and hypobranchial mucus, respectively. The C:N ratios of pedal and hypobranchial mucus indicate that the organic component consists of a mucopolysaccharide-glycoprotein complex that varies depending on its function, while low C:S ratios of the insoluble component and positive staining with Alcian Blue dye are indicative of S-ester and alkyl-SO42- groups bridging mucopolysaccharide and glycoprotein components. Anoxic incubations of pedal mucus of N. duplicata, sediment, and mucus-sediment mixture, resulted in the anaerobic generation of ΣCO2 and NH4+ at ratios lower than initial C:N ratios, indicating the preferential decomposition of N-rich moieties. Production rates of SCO2 and NH4+ in mucus-sediment incubations are higher, by 9±16% and 29±11%, respectively, than those predicted from linear addition of mucus-only and sediment-only rates. The statistically significant accelerated remineralization rate of N in the presence of modest mucus contribution (0.2% of total N), suggests that benthic mucus addition affects sedimentary organic matter remineralization processes through a “priming” effect.