Hydrogen sulfide, bacteria, and fish: a unique, subterranean food chain. Academic Article uri icon


  • Photoautotrophs are generally considered to be the base of food webs, and habitats that lack light, such as caves, frequently rely on surface-derived carbon. Here we show, based on analysis of gut contents and stable isotope ratios of tissues (13C:12C and 15N:14N), that sulfur-oxidizing bacteria are directly consumed and assimilated by the fish Poecilia mexicana in a sulfide-rich cave stream in Tabasco state, Mexico. Our results provide evidence of a vertebrate deriving most of its organic carbon and nitrogen from in situ chemoautotrophic production, and reveals the importance of alternative energy production sources supporting animals in extreme environments.

published proceedings

  • Ecology

author list (cited authors)

  • Roach, K. A., Tobler, M., & Winemiller, K. O.

citation count

  • 36

complete list of authors

  • Roach, Katherine A||Tobler, Michael||Winemiller, Kirk O

publication date

  • November 2011