Nematodes represent the most abundant benthic metazoa in one of the largest habitats on earth, the deep sea. Characterizing major patterns of biodiversity within this dominant group is a critical step towards understanding evolutionary patterns across this vast ecosystem. The present study has aimed to place deep-sea nematode species into a phylogenetic framework, investigate relationships between shallow water and deep-sea taxa, and elucidate phylogeographic patterns amongst the deep-sea fauna.
Molecular data (18 S and 28 S rRNA) confirms a high diversity amongst deep-sea Enoplids. There is no evidence for endemic deep-sea lineages in Maximum Likelihood or Bayesian phylogenies, and Enoplids do not cluster according to depth or geographic location. Tree topologies suggest frequent interchanges between deep-sea and shallow water habitats, as well as a mixture of early radiations and more recently derived lineages amongst deep-sea taxa. This study also provides convincing evidence of cosmopolitan marine species, recovering a subset of Oncholaimid nematodes with identical gene sequences (18 S, 28 S and cox1) at trans-Atlantic sample sites.
The complex clade structures recovered within the Enoplida support a high global species richness for marine nematodes, with phylogeographic patterns suggesting the existence of closely related, globally distributed species complexes in the deep sea. True cosmopolitan species may additionally exist within this group, potentially driven by specific life history traits of Enoplids. Although this investigation aimed to intensively sample nematodes from the order Enoplida, specimens were only identified down to genus (at best) and our sampling regime focused on an infinitesimal small fraction of the deep-sea floor. Future nematode studies should incorporate an extended sample set covering a wide depth range (shelf, bathyal, and abyssal sites), utilize additional genetic loci (e.g. mtDNA) that are informative at the species level, and apply high-throughput sequencing methods to fully assay community diversity. Finally, further molecular studies are needed to determine whether phylogeographic patterns observed in Enoplids are common across other ubiquitous marine groups (e.g. Chromadorida, Monhysterida).
Chemosynthetic primary production by microbes supports abundant faunal assemblages at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, with zonation of invertebrate species typically occurring along physico-chemical gradients. Recently discovered vent fields on the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) in the Southern Ocean represent a new province of vent biogeography, but the spatial dynamics of their distinct fauna have yet to be elucidated. This study determines patterns of faunal zonation, species associations, and relationships between faunal microdistribution and hydrothermal activity in a vent field at a depth of 2,400 m on the ESR. Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives obtained high-definition imagery of three chimney structures with varying levels of hydrothermal activity, and a mosaic image of >250 m2 of seafloor co-registered with temperature measurements. Analysis of faunal microdistribution within the mosaiced seafloor reveals a consistent pattern of faunal zonation with increasing distance from vent sources and peak temperatures. Assemblages closest to vent sources are visibly dominated by a new species of anomuran crab, Kiwa n. sp. (abundance >700 individuals m−2), followed by a peltospiroid gastropod (>1,500 individuals m−2), eolepadid barnacle (>1,500 individuals m−2), and carnivorous actinostolid anemone (>30 individuals m−2). Peripheral fauna are not dominated by a single taxon, but include predatory and scavenger taxa such as stichasterid seastars, pycnogonids and octopus. Variation in faunal microdistribution on chimneys with differing levels of activity suggests a possible successional sequence for vent fauna in this new biogeographic province. An increase in δ34S values of primary consumers with distance from vent sources, and variation in their δ13C values also indicate possible zonation of nutritional modes of the vent fauna. By using ROV videography to obtain a high-resolution representation of a vent environment over a greater extent than previous studies, these results provide a baseline for determining temporal change and investigations of processes structuring faunal assemblages at Southern Ocean vents.
The latitudinal diversity gradient, with maximum taxonomic richness in the tropics, is widely accepted as being pervasive on land, but the existence of this pattern in the sea has been surprisingly controversial. This is partly due to Thorson's influential claim that the normal latitudinal diversity gradient occurs in marine epifauna (taxa living on the surface of the substratum) but not in infauna (burrowing or boring into the substratum), a contrast he attributed to the greater spatial and temporal environmental homogeneity of infaunal habitats. In an analysis of 930 species of north-eastern Pacific marine shelf bivalves, we found that bivalves as a whole, and both infauna and epifauna separately, show a strong latitudinal diversity gradient (measured as number of species per degree latitude) that is closely related to mean sea surface temperature (SST), even in analyses of residuals and first differences. This agrees with results for marine gastropods, but contradicts Thorson's environmental homogeneity hypothesis. The relationship between SST and diversity is consistent with a species-energy hypothesis, but the linkages from SST to diversity remain unclear. Most bivalve clades within broad functional groups conform to the general latitudinal trend, except for the deposit-feeding protobranchs. This group's non-directional pattern may be related to its mode of development, because a similar effect is seen in several other groups locked into this low-fecundity, non-feeding larval mode.
The unexpected high species richness of deep-sea sediments gives rise to the questions, which processes produce and maintain diversity in the deep sea, and at what spatial scales do these processes operate? The idea of a small-scale habitat structure at the deep-sea floor provides the background for this study. At small scales biogenic structures create a heterogeneous environment that influences the structure of the surrounding communities and the dynamics of the meiobenthic populations. As an example for biogenic structures, small deep-sea sponges (Tentorium semisuberites Schmidt 1870) and their sedimentary environment were investigated for small-scale distribution patterns of benthic deep-sea nematodes. Sampling was carried out with the remotely operated vehicle Victor 6000 at the Arctic deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN. In order to investigate nematode community patterns sediment cores around three small sponges and corresponding control cores were analysed. A total of approx. 5800 nematodes were identified. The comparison of the nematode communities from sponge and control samples indicated an influence of the biogenic structure “sponge” on diversity patterns and habitat heterogeneity. The increased number of nematode species and functional groups found in the sediments around the sponges suggest that on a small scale the sponge acts as a gradient and creates a more divers habitat structure. The nematode community from the sponge sediments shows a greater taxonomic variance and species richness together with lower relative abundances of the species compared to those from control sediments. Obviously, the more homogeneous habitat conditions of the control sediments offer less micro-habitats than the sediments around the sponges. This seems to reduce the number of functional groups and species coexisting in the control sediments.
Deep-sea ecosystems represent the largest biome of the global biosphere, but
knowledge of their biodiversity is still scant. The Mediterranean basin has been
proposed as a hot spot of terrestrial and coastal marine biodiversity but has
been supposed to be impoverished of deep-sea species richness. We summarized all
available information on benthic biodiversity (Prokaryotes, Foraminifera,
Meiofauna, Macrofauna, and Megafauna) in different deep-sea ecosystems of the
Mediterranean Sea (200 to more than 4,000 m depth), including open slopes, deep
basins, canyons, cold seeps, seamounts, deep-water corals and deep-hypersaline
anoxic basins and analyzed overall longitudinal and bathymetric patterns. We
show that in contrast to what was expected from the sharp decrease in organic
carbon fluxes and reduced faunal abundance, the deep-sea biodiversity of both
the eastern and the western basins of the Mediterranean Sea is similarly high.
All of the biodiversity components, except Bacteria and Archaea, displayed a
decreasing pattern with increasing water depth, but to a different extent for
each component. Unlike patterns observed for faunal abundance, highest negative
values of the slopes of the biodiversity patterns were observed for Meiofauna,
followed by Macrofauna and Megafauna. Comparison of the biodiversity associated
with open slopes, deep basins, canyons, and deep-water corals showed that the
deep basins were the least diverse. Rarefaction curves allowed us to estimate
the expected number of species for each benthic component in different
bathymetric ranges. A large fraction of exclusive species was associated with
each specific habitat or ecosystem. Thus, each deep-sea ecosystem contributes
significantly to overall biodiversity. From theoretical extrapolations we
estimate that the overall deep-sea Mediterranean biodiversity (excluding
prokaryotes) reaches approximately 2805 species of which about 66% is
still undiscovered. Among the biotic components investigated (Prokaryotes
excluded), most of the unknown species are within the phylum Nematoda, followed
by Foraminifera, but an important fraction of macrofaunal and megafaunal species
also remains unknown. Data reported here provide new insights into the patterns
of biodiversity in the deep-sea Mediterranean and new clues for future
investigations aimed at identifying the factors controlling and threatening
Shallow-water tropical reefs and the deep sea represent the two most diverse marine environments. Understanding the origin and diversification of this biodiversity is a major quest in ecology and evolution. The most prominent and well-supported explanation, articulated since the first explorations of the deep sea, holds that benthic marine fauna originated in shallow, onshore environments, and diversified into deeper waters. In contrast, evidence that groups of marine organisms originated in the deep sea is limited, and the possibility that deep-water taxa have contributed to the formation of shallow-water communities remains untested with phylogenetic methods. Here we show that stylasterid corals (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa: Stylasteridae)—the second most diverse group of hard corals—originated and diversified extensively in the deep sea, and subsequently invaded shallow waters. Our phylogenetic results show that deep-water stylasterid corals have invaded the shallow-water tropics three times, with one additional invasion of the shallow-water temperate zone. Our results also show that anti-predatory innovations arose in the deep sea, but were not involved in the shallow-water invasions. These findings are the first robust evidence that an important group of tropical shallow-water marine animals evolved from deep-water ancestors.
A comprehensive seafloor biomass and abundance database has been constructed from 24 oceanographic institutions worldwide within the Census of Marine Life (CoML) field projects. The machine-learning algorithm, Random Forests, was employed to model and predict seafloor standing stocks from surface primary production, water-column integrated and export particulate organic matter (POM), seafloor relief, and bottom water properties. The predictive models explain 63% to 88% of stock variance among the major size groups. Individual and composite maps of predicted global seafloor biomass and abundance are generated for bacteria, meiofauna, macrofauna, and megafauna (invertebrates and fishes). Patterns of benthic standing stocks were positive functions of surface primary production and delivery of the particulate organic carbon (POC) flux to the seafloor. At a regional scale, the census maps illustrate that integrated biomass is highest at the poles, on continental margins associated with coastal upwelling and with broad zones associated with equatorial divergence. Lowest values are consistently encountered on the central abyssal plains of major ocean basins The shift of biomass dominance groups with depth is shown to be affected by the decrease in average body size rather than abundance, presumably due to decrease in quantity and quality of food supply. This biomass census and associated maps are vital components of mechanistic deep-sea food web models and global carbon cycling, and as such provide fundamental information that can be incorporated into evidence-based management.
The proportion in which carbon and growth-limiting nutrients are exported from the oceans’ productive surface layer to the deep sea is a crucial parameter in models of the biological carbon pump. Based on >400 vertical flux observations of particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PON) from the European Arctic Ocean we show the common assumption of constant C:N stoichiometry not to be met. Exported POC:PON ratios exceeded the classical Redfield atomic ratio of 6.625 in the entire region, with the largest deviation in the deep Central Arctic Ocean. In this part the mean exported POC:PON ratio of 9.7 (a:a) implies c. 40% higher carbon export compared to Redfield-based estimates. When spatially integrated, the potential POC export in the European Arctic was 10–30% higher than suggested by calculations based on constant POC:PON ratios. We further demonstrate that the exported POC:PON ratio varies regionally in relation to nitrate-based new production over geographical scales that range from the Arctic to the subtropics, being highest in the least productive oligotrophic Central Arctic Ocean and subtropical gyres. Accounting for variations in export stoichiometry among systems of different productivity will improve the ability of models to resolve regional patterns in carbon export and, hence, the oceans’ contribution to the global carbon cycle will be predicted more accurately.
The possibility for commercial mining of deep-sea manganese nodules is currently under exploration in the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. Nematodes have potential for biomonitoring of the impact of commercial activity but the natural biodiversity is unknown. We investigate the feasibility of nematodes as biomonitoring organisms and give information about their natural biodiversity.
The taxonomic composition (at family to genus level) of the nematode fauna in the abyssal Pacific is similar, but not identical to, the North Atlantic. Given the immature state of marine nematode taxonomy, it is not possible to comment on the commonality or otherwise of species between oceans. The between basin differences do not appear to be directly linked to current ecological factors. The abyssal Pacific region (including the Fracture Zone) could be divided into two biodiversity subregions that conform to variations in the linked factors of flux to the benthos and of sedimentary characteristics. Richer biodiversity is associated with areas of known phytodetritus input and higher organic-carbon flux. Despite high reported sample diversity, estimated regional diversity is less than 400 species.
The estimated regional diversity of the CCFZ is a tractable figure for biomonitoring of commercial activities in this region using marine nematodes, despite the immature taxonomy (i.e. most marine species have not been described) of the group. However, nematode ecology is in dire need of further study.
The origin and possible antiquity of the spectacularly diverse modern deep-sea fauna has been debated since the beginning of deep-sea research in the mid-nineteenth century. Recent hypotheses, based on biogeographic patterns and molecular clock estimates, support a latest Mesozoic or early Cenozoic date for the origin of key groups of the present deep-sea fauna (echinoids, octopods). This relatively young age is consistent with hypotheses that argue for extensive extinction during Jurassic and Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAEs) and the mid-Cenozoic cooling of deep-water masses, implying repeated re-colonization by immigration of taxa from shallow-water habitats. Here we report on a well-preserved echinoderm assemblage from deep-sea (1000–1500 m paleodepth) sediments of the NE-Atlantic of Early Cretaceous age (114 Ma). The assemblage is strikingly similar to that of extant bathyal echinoderm communities in composition, including families and genera found exclusively in modern deep-sea habitats. A number of taxa found in the assemblage have no fossil record at shelf depths postdating the assemblage, which precludes the possibility of deep-sea recolonization from shallow habitats following episodic extinction at least for those groups. Our discovery provides the first key fossil evidence that a significant part of the modern deep-sea fauna is considerably older than previously assumed. As a consequence, most major paleoceanographic events had far less impact on the diversity of deep-sea faunas than has been implied. It also suggests that deep-sea biota are more resilient to extinction events than shallow-water forms, and that the unusual deep-sea environment, indeed, provides evolutionary stability which is very rarely punctuated on macroevolutionary time scales.
Molluscan faunal turnover in the Plio-Pleistocene of the tropical western Atlantic has been attributed to drops in temperature or primary productivity, but these competing hypotheses have not been assessed ecologically. To test these alternatives, we compiled data on changing molluscan life habits and trophic composition over 12 million years derived from 463 newly made collections from the southwestern Caribbean. Shelf ecosystems have altered markedly in trophic structure since the Late Pliocene. Predatory gastropods and suspension-feeding bivalves declined significantly in abundance, but not in diversity, and reef-dwellers became common. By contrast, all other ecological life habits remained remarkably stable. Food-web changes strongly support the hypothesis that declining regional nutrient supply had an increasing impact on regional macroecology, culminating in a faunal turnover.
Seamounts are unique deep-sea features that create habitats thought to have high levels of endemic fauna, productive fisheries and benthic communities vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts. Many seamounts are isolated features, occurring in the high seas, where access is limited and thus biological data scarce. There are numerous seamounts within the Drake Passage (Southern Ocean), yet high winds, frequent storms and strong currents make seafloor sampling particularly difficult. As a result, few attempts to collect biological data have been made, leading to a paucity of information on benthic habitats or fauna in this area, particularly those on primarily hard-bottom seamounts and ridges. During a research cruise in 2008 six locations were examined (two on the Antarctic margin, one on the Shackleton Fracture Zone, and three on seamounts within the Drake Passage), using a towed camera with onboard instruments to measure conductivity, temperature, depth and turbidity. Dominant fauna and bottom type were categorized from 200 randomized photos from each location. Cold-water corals were present in high numbers in habitats both on the Antarctic margin and on the current swept seamounts of the Drake Passage, though the diversity of orders varied. Though the Scleractinia (hard corals) were abundant on the sedimented margin, they were poorly represented in the primarily hard-bottom areas of the central Drake Passage. The two seamount sites and the Shackleton Fracture Zone showed high numbers of stylasterid (lace) and alcyonacean (soft) corals, as well as large numbers of sponges. Though data are preliminary, the geological and environmental variability (particularly in temperature) between sample sites may be influencing cold-water coral biogeography in this region. Each area observed also showed little similarity in faunal diversity with other sites examined for this study within all phyla counted. This manuscript highlights how little is understood of these isolated features, particularly in Polar regions.
In recent years, a number of species–energy hypotheses have been developed to explain global patterns in plant and animal diversity. These hypotheses frequently fail to distinguish between fundamentally different forms of energy which influence diversity in dissimilar ways. Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) can be utilized only by plants, though their abundance and growth rate is also greatly influenced by water. The Gibbs free energy (chemical energy) retained in the reduced organic compounds of tissue can be utilized by all heterotrophic organisms. Neither PAR nor chemical energy influences diversity directly. Both, however, influence biomass and/or abundance; diversity may then increase as a result of secondary population dynamic or evolutionary processes. Temperature is not a form of energy, though it is often used loosely by ecologists as a proxy for energy; it does, however, influence the rate of utilization of chemical energy by organisms. It may also influence diversity by allowing a greater range of energetic lifestyles at warmer temperatures (the metabolic niche hypothesis). We conclude that there is no single species/energy mechanism; fundamentally different processes link energy to abundance in plants and animals, and diversity is affected secondarily. If we are to make progress in elucidating these mechanisms, it is important to distinguish climatic effects on species' distribution and abundance from processes linking energy supply to plant and animal diversity.
abundance; energy; photosynthetically active radiation; speciation; species richness; temperature
The Mediterranean Sea is a marine biodiversity hot spot. Here we combined an extensive literature analysis with expert opinions to update publicly available estimates of major taxa in this marine ecosystem and to revise and update several species lists. We also assessed overall spatial and temporal patterns of species diversity and identified major changes and threats. Our results listed approximately 17,000 marine species occurring in the Mediterranean Sea. However, our estimates of marine diversity are still incomplete as yet—undescribed species will be added in the future. Diversity for microbes is substantially underestimated, and the deep-sea areas and portions of the southern and eastern region are still poorly known. In addition, the invasion of alien species is a crucial factor that will continue to change the biodiversity of the Mediterranean, mainly in its eastern basin that can spread rapidly northwards and westwards due to the warming of the Mediterranean Sea. Spatial patterns showed a general decrease in biodiversity from northwestern to southeastern regions following a gradient of production, with some exceptions and caution due to gaps in our knowledge of the biota along the southern and eastern rims. Biodiversity was also generally higher in coastal areas and continental shelves, and decreases with depth. Temporal trends indicated that overexploitation and habitat loss have been the main human drivers of historical changes in biodiversity. At present, habitat loss and degradation, followed by fishing impacts, pollution, climate change, eutrophication, and the establishment of alien species are the most important threats and affect the greatest number of taxonomic groups. All these impacts are expected to grow in importance in the future, especially climate change and habitat degradation. The spatial identification of hot spots highlighted the ecological importance of most of the western Mediterranean shelves (and in particular, the Strait of Gibraltar and the adjacent Alboran Sea), western African coast, the Adriatic, and the Aegean Sea, which show high concentrations of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species. The Levantine Basin, severely impacted by the invasion of species, is endangered as well.
This abstract has been translated to other languages (File S1).
Environmental impacts of human activities on the deep seafloor are of increasing concern. While activities within waters shallower than 200 m have been the focus of previous assessments of anthropogenic impacts, no study has quantified the extent of individual activities or determined the relative severity of each type of impact in the deep sea.
The OSPAR maritime area of the North East Atlantic was chosen for the study because it is considered to be one of the most heavily impacted by human activities. In addition, it was assumed data would be accessible and comprehensive. Using the available data we map and estimate the spatial extent of five major human activities in the North East Atlantic that impact the deep seafloor: submarine communication cables, marine scientific research, oil and gas industry, bottom trawling and the historical dumping of radioactive waste, munitions and chemical weapons. It was not possible to map military activities. The extent of each activity has been quantified for a single year, 2005.
Human activities on the deep seafloor of the OSPAR area of the North Atlantic are significant but their footprints vary. Some activities have an immediate impact after which seafloor communities could re-establish, while others can continue to make an impact for many years and the impact could extend far beyond the physical disturbance. The spatial extent of waste disposal, telecommunication cables, the hydrocarbon industry and marine research activities is relatively small. The extent of bottom trawling is very significant and, even on the lowest possible estimates, is an order of magnitude greater than the total extent of all the other activities.
To meet future ecosystem-based management and governance objectives for the deep sea significant improvements are required in data collection and availability as well as a greater awareness of the relative impact of each human activity.
The availability of nutrients and energy is a main driver of biodiversity for plant and animal communities in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, but we are only beginning to understand whether and how energy–diversity relationships may be extended to complex natural bacterial communities. Here, we analyzed the link between phytodetritus input, diversity and activity of bacterial communities of the Siberian continental margin (37–3427 m water depth). Community structure and functions, such as enzymatic activity, oxygen consumption and carbon remineralization rates, were highly related to each other, and with energy availability. Bacterial richness substantially increased with increasing sediment pigment content, suggesting a positive energy–diversity relationship in oligotrophic regions. Richness leveled off, forming a plateau, when mesotrophic sites were included, suggesting that bacterial communities and other benthic fauna may be structured by similar mechanisms. Dominant bacterial taxa showed strong positive or negative relationships with phytodetritus input and allowed us to identify candidate bioindicator taxa. Contrasting responses of individual taxa to changes in phytodetritus input also suggest varying ecological strategies among bacterial groups along the energy gradient. Our results imply that environmental changes affecting primary productivity and particle export from the surface ocean will not only affect bacterial community structure but also bacterial functions in Arctic deep-sea sediment, and that sediment bacterial communities can record shifts in the whole ocean ecosystem functioning.
arctic; bacteria; diversity; ecology; sediment
Downward fluxes of nucleic acids adsorbed onto settling particles play a key role in the supply of organic phosphorus and genetic material to the ocean interior. However, information on pelagic-benthic coupling, diagenesis, and processes controlling nucleic acid preservation in deep-sea sediments is practically nonexistent. In this study, we compared nucleic acid fluxes, sedimentary DNA and RNA concentrations, and the enzymatically hydrolyzable fraction of DNA in a bathyal continental margin (North Aegean Sea) and an open-sea system (South Aegean Sea) of the Eastern Mediterranean. The two systems displayed contrasting patterns of nucleic acid fluxes, which increased significantly with depth in the North Aegean Sea and decreased with depth in the South Aegean Sea. These results suggest that in continental margin and open-ocean systems different processes control the nucleic acid supply to the sea floor. Differences in nucleic acid fluxes were reflected by nucleic acid concentrations in the sediments, which reached extremely high values in the North Aegean Sea. In this system, a large fraction of DNA may be buried, as suggested by the large fraction of DNA resistant to nuclease degradation and by estimates of burial efficiency (ca. eight times higher in the North than in the South Aegean Sea). Overall, the results reported here suggest that the preservation of DNA in deeper sediment layers may be favored in benthic systems characterized by high sedimentation rates.
One of the most intriguing patterns in mammalian biogeography is the “island rule”, which states that colonising species have a tendency to converge in body size, with larger species evolving decreased sizes and smaller species increased sizes. It has recently been suggested that an analogous pattern holds for the colonisation of the deep-sea benthos by marine Gastropoda. In particular, a pioneering study showed that gastropods from the Western Atlantic showed the same graded trend from dwarfism to gigantism that is evident in island endemic mammals. However, subsequent to the publication of the gastropod study, the standard tests of the island rule have been shown to yield false positives at a very high rate, leaving the result open to doubt.
The evolution of gastropod body size in the deep sea is reexamined. Using an extended and updated data set, and improved statistical methods, it is shown that some results of the previous study may have been artifactual, but that its central conclusion is robust. It is further shown that the effect is not restricted to a single gastropod clade, that its strength increases markedly with depth, but that it applies even in the mesopelagic zone.
The replication of the island rule in a distant taxonomic group and a partially analogous ecological situation could help to uncover the causes of the patterns observed—which are currently much disputed. The gastropod pattern is evident at intermediate depths, and so cannot be attributed to the unique features of abyssal ecology.
Cone snail venoms have yielded pharmacologically-active natural products of exceptional scientific interest. However, cone snails are a small minority of venomous molluscan biodiversity, the vast majority being tiny venomous morphospecies in the family Turridae. A novel method called lumun-lumun opens access to these micromolluscs and their venoms. Old fishing nets are anchored to the sea bottom for a period of 1–6 months and marine biotas rich in small molluscs are established. In a single lumun-lumun community, we found a remarkable gastropod biodiversity (155 morphospecies). Venomous predators belonging to the superfamily Conoidea (36 morphospecies) were the largest group, the majority being micromolluscs in the family Turridae.
We carried out an initial analysis of the most abundant of the turrid morphospecies recovered, Clathurella (Lienardia) cincta (Dunker, 1871). In contrast to all cDNA clones characterized from cone snail venom ducts, one of the C. cincta clones identified encoded two different peptide precursors presumably translated from a single mRNA. The prospect of easily accessing so many different morphospecies of venomous marine snails raises intriguing toxinological possibilities: the 36 conoidean morphospecies in this one net alone have the potential to yield thousands of novel pharmacologically-active compounds.
Marine Biodiversity; turrids; venom peptides
Our knowledge of the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean (SO) deep benthos is scarce. In this review, we describe the general biodiversity patterns of meio-, macro- and megafaunal taxa, based on historical and recent expeditions, and against the background of the geological events and phylogenetic relationships that have influenced the biodiversity and evolution of the investigated taxa. The relationship of the fauna to environmental parameters, such as water depth, sediment type, food availability and carbonate solubility, as well as species interrelationships, probably have shaped present-day biodiversity patterns as much as evolution. However, different taxa exhibit different large-scale biodiversity and biogeographic patterns. Moreover, there is rarely any clear relationship of biodiversity pattern with depth, latitude or environmental parameters, such as sediment composition or grain size. Similarities and differences between the SO biodiversity and biodiversity of global oceans are outlined. The high percentage (often more than 90%) of new species in almost all taxa, as well as the high degree of endemism of many groups, may reflect undersampling of the area, and it is likely to decrease as more information is gathered about SO deep-sea biodiversity by future expeditions. Indeed, among certain taxa such as the Foraminifera, close links at the species level are already apparent between deep Weddell Sea faunas and those from similar depths in the North Atlantic and Arctic. With regard to the vertical zonation from the shelf edge into deep water, biodiversity patterns among some taxa in the SO might differ from those in other deep-sea areas, due to the deep Antarctic shelf and the evolution of eurybathy in many species, as well as to deep-water production that can fuel the SO deep sea with freshly produced organic matter derived not only from phytoplankton, but also from ice algae.
Southern Ocean; biodiversity; benthos; geological history; evolution
A survey of Antarctic waters along the East Scotia Ridge in the Southern Ocean reveals a new vent biogeographic province among previously uncharacterized deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities.
Since the first discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents along the Galápagos Rift in 1977, numerous vent sites and endemic faunal assemblages have been found along mid-ocean ridges and back-arc basins at low to mid latitudes. These discoveries have suggested the existence of separate biogeographic provinces in the Atlantic and the North West Pacific, the existence of a province including the South West Pacific and Indian Ocean, and a separation of the North East Pacific, North East Pacific Rise, and South East Pacific Rise. The Southern Ocean is known to be a region of high deep-sea species diversity and centre of origin for the global deep-sea fauna. It has also been proposed as a gateway connecting hydrothermal vents in different oceans but is little explored because of extreme conditions. Since 2009 we have explored two segments of the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) in the Southern Ocean using a remotely operated vehicle. In each segment we located deep-sea hydrothermal vents hosting high-temperature black smokers up to 382.8°C and diffuse venting. The chemosynthetic ecosystems hosted by these vents are dominated by a new yeti crab (Kiwa n. sp.), stalked barnacles, limpets, peltospiroid gastropods, anemones, and a predatory sea star. Taxa abundant in vent ecosystems in other oceans, including polychaete worms (Siboglinidae), bathymodiolid mussels, and alvinocaridid shrimps, are absent from the ESR vents. These groups, except the Siboglinidae, possess planktotrophic larvae, rare in Antarctic marine invertebrates, suggesting that the environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean may act as a dispersal filter for vent taxa. Evidence from the distinctive fauna, the unique community structure, and multivariate analyses suggest that the Antarctic vent ecosystems represent a new vent biogeographic province. However, multivariate analyses of species present at the ESR and at other deep-sea hydrothermal vents globally indicate that vent biogeography is more complex than previously recognised.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are mainly associated with seafloor spreading at mid-ocean ridges and in basins near volcanic island arcs. They host animals found nowhere else that derive their energy not from the sun but from bacterial oxidation of chemicals in the vent fluids, particularly hydrogen sulphide. Hydrothermal vents and their communities of organisms have become important models for understanding the origins and limits of life as well as evolution of island-like communities in the deep ocean. We describe the fauna associated with high-temperature hydrothermal vents on the East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean, to our knowledge the first to be discovered in Antarctic waters. These communities are dominated by a new species of yeti crab, stalked barnacles, limpets and snails, sea anemones, and a predatory seven-armed starfish. Animals commonly found in hydrothermal vents of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, including giant Riftia tubeworms, annelid worms, vent mussels, vent crabs, and vent shrimps, were not present at the Southern Ocean vents. These discoveries suggest that the environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean may act as a barrier to some vent animals and that the East Scotia Ridge communities form a new biogeographic province with a unique species composition and structure.
We studied factors influencing daily energy expenditures (DEE) of male least weasels (Mustela nivalis) using the doubly labelled water technique. The relationship between ambient temperature and DEE formed a triangular pattern, characterized by invariance of the maximum DEE and an inverse relationship between minimum DEE and temperature. A simple energetic model relating the DEE of male weasels to activity time (AT) and ambient temperature predicted that, across seasons, less than 10 per cent of measurements approach the upper bound of observed DEE. Male weasels were able to maintain a relatively constant maximum energy output across varying temperatures by adjusting their AT to changes in temperature. They achieved maximum energy expenditures in winter due to high thermoregulatory costs, and in spring and summer due to high levels of physical activity. This pattern exemplifies a ‘metabolic niche’ of a small mammal having extremely high energy expenditures primarily driven by ambient temperature.
daily energy expenditure; ambient temperature; activity time; metabolic niche; weasel; doubly labelled water
The seafloor is a unique environment, which allows insights into how geochemical processes affect the diversity of biological life. Among its diverse ecosystems are deep-sea brine pools - water bodies characterized by a unique combination of extreme conditions. The ‘polyextremophiles’ that constitute the microbial assemblage of these deep hot brines have not been comprehensively studied. We report a comparative taxonomic analysis of the prokaryotic communities of the sediments directly below the Red Sea brine pools, namely, Atlantis II, Discovery, Chain Deep, and an adjacent brine-influenced site. Analyses of sediment samples and high-throughput pyrosequencing of PCR-amplified environmental 16S ribosomal RNA genes (16S rDNA) revealed that one sulfur (S)-rich Atlantis II and one nitrogen (N)-rich Discovery Deep section contained distinct microbial populations that differed from those found in the other sediment samples examined. Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Deferribacteres, and Euryarchaeota were the most abundant bacterial and archaeal phyla in both the S- and N-rich sections. Relative abundance-based hierarchical clustering of the 16S rDNA pyrotags assigned to major taxonomic groups allowed us to categorize the archaeal and bacterial communities into three major and distinct groups; group I was unique to the S-rich Atlantis II section (ATII-1), group II was characteristic for the N-rich Discovery sample (DD-1), and group III reflected the composition of the remaining sediments. Many of the groups detected in the S-rich Atlantis II section are likely to play a dominant role in the cycling of methane and sulfur due to their phylogenetic affiliations with bacteria and archaea involved in anaerobic methane oxidation and sulfate reduction.
A long-term time series of plankton and benthic records in the North Sea indicates an increase in decapods and a decline in their prey species that include bivalves and flatfish recruits. Here, we show that in the southern North Sea the proportion of decapods to bivalves doubled following a temperature-driven, abrupt ecosystem shift during the 1980s. Analysis of decapod larvae in the plankton reveals a greater presence and spatial extent of warm-water species where the increase in decapods is greatest. These changes paralleled the arrival of new species such as the warm-water swimming crab Polybius henslowii now found in the southern North Sea. We suggest that climate-induced changes among North Sea decapods have played an important role in the trophic amplification of a climate signal and in the development of the new North Sea dynamic regime.
benthos; bivalves; flatfish; Polybius henslowii; range; temperature
Large organic food falls to the deep sea – such as whale carcasses and wood logs – are known to serve as stepping stones for the dispersal of highly adapted chemosynthetic organisms inhabiting hot vents and cold seeps. Here we investigated the biogeochemical and microbiological processes leading to the development of sulfidic niches by deploying wood colonization experiments at a depth of 1690 m in the Eastern Mediterranean for one year. Wood-boring bivalves of the genus Xylophaga played a key role in the degradation of the wood logs, facilitating the development of anoxic zones and anaerobic microbial processes such as sulfate reduction. Fauna and bacteria associated with the wood included types reported from other deep-sea habitats including chemosynthetic ecosystems, confirming the potential role of large organic food falls as biodiversity hot spots and stepping stones for vent and seep communities. Specific bacterial communities developed on and around the wood falls within one year and were distinct from freshly submerged wood and background sediments. These included sulfate-reducing and cellulolytic bacterial taxa, which are likely to play an important role in the utilization of wood by chemosynthetic life and other deep-sea animals.