The Evolutionary Ecology of Animals Inhabiting Hydrogen Sulfide-Rich Environments

Michael Tobler, Courtney N. Passow, Ryan Greenway, Joanna L. Kelley, Jennifer H. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a respiratory toxicant that creates extreme environments tolerated by few organisms. H2S is also produced endogenously by metazoans and plays a role in cell signaling. The mechanisms of H2S toxicity and its physiological functions serve as a basis to discuss the multifarious strategies that allow animals to survive in H2S-rich environments. Despite their toxicity, H2S-rich environments also provide ecological opportunities, and complex selective regimes of covarying abiotic and biotic factors drive trait evolution in organisms inhabiting H2S-rich environments. Furthermore, adaptation to H2S-rich environments can drive speciation, giving rise to biodiversity hot spots with high levels of endemism in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, and freshwater sulfide springs. The diversity of H2S-rich environments and their inhabitants provides ideal systems for comparative studies of the effects of a clear-cut source of selection across vast geographic and phylogenetic scales, ultimately informing our understanding of how environmental stressors affect ecological and evolutionary processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-262
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

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© 2016 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


  • Convergent evolution
  • Ecological opportunity
  • Extreme environments
  • Physiological adaptation
  • Speciation
  • Symbiosis


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