An aluminum shield enables the amphipod Hirondellea gigas to inhabit deep-sea environments
The amphipod Hirondellea gigas inhabits the deepest regions of the oceans in extreme high-pressure conditions. However, the mechanisms by which this amphipod adapts to its high-pressure environment remain unknown. In this study, we investigated the elemental content of the exoskeleton of H. gigas specimens captured from the deepest points of the Mariana Trench. The H. gigas exoskeleton contained aluminum, as well as a major amount of calcium carbonate. Unlike other (accumulated) metals, aluminum was distributed on the surface of the exoskeleton. To investigate how H. gigas obtains aluminum, we conducted a metabolome analysis and found that gluconic acid/gluconolactone was capable of extracting metals from the sediment under the habitat conditions of H. gigas. The extracted aluminum ions are transformed into the gel state of aluminum hydroxide in alkaline seawater, and this gel covers the body to protect the amphipod. This aluminum gel is a good material for adaptation to such high-pressure environments.