Consensus is growing among ecologists that energy and the factors influencing its utilization can play overarching roles in regulating large-scale patterns of biodiversity. The deep sea—the world's largest ecosystem—has simplified energetic inputs and thus provides an excellent opportunity to study how these processes structure spatial diversity patterns. Two factors influencing energy availability and use are chemical (productive) and thermal energy, here represented as seafloor particulate organic carbon (POC) flux and temperature. We related regional patterns of benthic molluscan diversity in the North Atlantic to these factors, to conduct an explicit test of species–energy relationships in the modern day fauna of the deep ocean. Spatial regression analyses in a model-averaging framework indicated that POC flux had a substantially higher relative importance than temperature for both gastropods and protobranch bivalves, although high correlations between variables prevented definitive interpretation. This contrasts with recent research on temporal variation in fossil diversity from deep-sea cores, where temperature is generally a more significant predictor. These differences may reflect the scales of time and space at which productivity and temperature operate, or differences in body size; but both lines of evidence implicate processes influencing energy utilization as major determinants of deep-sea species diversity.
species–energy; productivity; temperature; mollusc; diversity
Anthropogenic disturbances such as fishing, mining, oil drilling, bioprospecting, warming, and acidification in the deep sea are increasing, yet generalities about deep-sea biogeography remain elusive. Owing to the lack of perceived environmental variability and geographical barriers, ranges of deep-sea species were traditionally assumed to be exceedingly large. In contrast, seamount and chemosynthetic habitats with reported high endemicity challenge the broad applicability of a single biogeographic paradigm for the deep sea. New research benefiting from higher resolution sampling, molecular methods and public databases can now more rigorously examine dispersal distances and species ranges on the vast ocean floor. Here, we explore the major outstanding questions in deep-sea biogeography. Based on current evidence, many taxa appear broadly distributed across the deep sea, a pattern replicated in both the abyssal plains and specialized environments such as hydrothermal vents. Cold waters may slow larval metabolism and development augmenting the great intrinsic ability for dispersal among many deep-sea species. Currents, environmental shifts, and topography can prove to be dispersal barriers but are often semipermeable. Evidence of historical events such as points of faunal origin and climatic fluctuations are also evident in contemporary biogeographic ranges. Continued synthetic analysis, database construction, theoretical advancement and field sampling will be required to further refine hypotheses regarding deep-sea biogeography.
biogeography; deep sea; dispersal; range; vicariance; establishment
Body size variation across the Metazoa is immense, encompassing 17 orders of magnitude in biovolume. Factors driving this extreme diversification in size and the consequences of size variation for biological processes remain poorly resolved. Species diversity is invoked as both a predictor and a result of size variation, and theory predicts a strong correlation between the two. However, evidence has been presented both supporting and contradicting such a relationship. Here, we use a new comprehensive dataset for maximum and minimum body sizes across all metazoan phyla to show that species diversity is strongly correlated with minimum size, maximum size and consequently intra-phylum variation. Similar patterns are also observed within birds and mammals. The observations point to several fundamental linkages between species diversification and body size variation through the evolution of animal life.
Metazoa; body size; biodiversity; niche; passive evolution; directed evolution
It is increasingly being recognized that predation can be a strong diversifying agent promoting ecological divergence. Adaptations against different predatory regimes can emerge over short periods of time and include many different traits. We studied antipredator adaptations in two ecotypes of an isopod (Asellus aquaticus) that have, diverged in parallel in two Swedish lakes over the last two decades. We quantified differences in escape speed, morphology and behavior for isopods from different ecotypes present in these lakes. Isopods from the source habitat (reed) coexist with mainly invertebrate predators. They are more stream-profiled and have higher escape speeds than isopods in the newly colonized stonewort habitat, which has higher density of fish predators. Stonewort isopods also show more cautious behaviors and had higher levels of phenotypic integration between coloration and morphological traits than the reed isopods. Colonization of a novel habitat with a different predation regime has thus strengthened the correlations between pigmentation and morphology and weakened escape performance. The strong signature of parallelism for these phenotypic traits indicates that divergence is likely to be adaptive and is likely to have been driven by differences in predatory regimes. Furthermore, our results indicate that physical performance, behavior and morphology can change rapidly and in concert as new habitats are colonized.
The deep ocean greater than 1 km covers the majority of the earth's surface. Interspersed on the abyssal plains and continental slope are an estimated 14000 seamounts, topographic features extending 1000 m off the seafloor. A variety of hypotheses are posited that suggest the ecological, evolutionary, and oceanographic processes on seamounts differ from those governing the surrounding deep sea. The most prominent and oldest of these hypotheses, the seamount endemicity hypothesis (SMEH), states that seamounts possess a set of isolating mechanisms that produce highly endemic faunas. Here, we constructed a faunal inventory for Davidson Seamount, the first bathymetric feature to be characterized as a ‘seamount’, residing 120 km off the central California coast in approximately 3600 m of water (Fig 1). We find little support for the SMEH among megafauna of a Northeast Pacific seamount; instead, finding an assemblage of species that also occurs on adjacent continental margins. A large percentage of these species are also cosmopolitan with ranges extending over much of the Pacific Ocean Basin. Despite the similarity in composition between the seamount and non-seamount communities, we provide preliminary evidence that seamount communities may be structured differently and potentially serve as source of larvae for suboptimal, non-seamount habitats.
Chlorophyll biomass in the surface ocean is regulated by a complex interaction of physiological, oceanographic, and ecological factors and in turn regulates the rates of primary production and export of organic carbon to the deep ocean. Mechanistic models of phytoplankton responses to climate change require the parameterization of many processes of which we have limited knowledge. We develop a statistical approach to estimate the response of remote-sensed ocean chlorophyll to a variety of physical and chemical variables. Irradiance over the mixed layer depth, surface nitrate, sea-surface temperature, and latitude and longitude together can predict 83% of the variation in log chlorophyll in the North Atlantic. Light and nitrate regulate biomass through an empirically determined minimum function explaining nearly 50% of the variation in log chlorophyll by themselves and confirming that either light or macronutrients are often limiting and that much of the variation in chlorophyll concentration is determined by bottom-up mechanisms. Assuming the dynamics of the future ocean are governed by the same processes at work today, we should be able to apply these response functions to future climate change scenarios, with changes in temperature, nutrient distributions, irradiance, and ocean physics.
The end-Permian biotic crisis (∼252.5 Ma) represents the most severe extinction event in Earth's history. This paper investigates diversity patterns in Anomodontia, an extinct group of therapsid synapsids (‘mammal-like reptiles’), through time and in particular across this event. As herbivores and the dominant terrestrial tetrapods of their time, anomodonts play a central role in assessing the impact of the end-Permian extinction on terrestrial ecosystems. Taxonomic diversity analysis reveals that anomodonts experienced three distinct phases of diversification interrupted by the same number of extinctions, i.e. an end-Guadalupian, an end-Permian, and a mid-Triassic extinction. A positive correlation between the number of taxa and the number of formations per time interval shows that anomodont diversity is biased by the Permian-Triassic terrestrial rock record. Normalized diversity curves indicate that anomodont richness continuously declines from the Middle Permian to the Late Triassic, but also reveals all three extinction events. Taxonomic rates (origination and extinction) indicate that the end-Guadalupian and end-Permian extinctions were driven by increased rates of extinction as well as low origination rates. However, this pattern is not evident at the final decline of anomodont diversity during the Middle Triassic. Therefore, it remains unclear whether the Middle Triassic extinction represents a gradual or abrupt event that is unique to anomodonts or more common among terrestrial tetrapods. The end-Permian extinction represents the most distinct event in terms of decline in anomodont richness and turnover rates.
Deterministic filters such as competition and prey defences should have a strong influence on the community structure of animals such as insectivorous bats that have life histories characterized by low fecundity, low predation risk, long life expectancy, and stable populations. We investigated the relative influence of these two deterministic filters on the phenotypic structure of insectivorous bat ensembles in southern Africa. We used null models to simulate the random phenotypic patterns expected in the absence of competition or prey defences and analysed the deviations of the observed phenotypic pattern from these expected random patterns. The phenotypic structure at local scales exhibited non-random patterns consistent with both competition and prey defense hypotheses. There was evidence that competition influenced body size distribution across ensembles. Competition also influenced wing and echolocation patterns in ensembles and in functional foraging groups with high species richness or abundance. At the same time, prey defense filters influenced echolocation patterns in two species-poor ensembles. Non-random patterns remained evident even after we removed the influence of body size from wing morphology and echolocation parameters taking phylogeny into account. However, abiotic filters such as geographic distribution ranges of small and large-bodied species, extinction risk, and the physics of flight and sound probably also interacted with biotic filters at local and/or regional scales to influence the community structure of sympatric bats in southern Africa. Future studies should investigate alternative parameters that define bat community structure such as diet and abundance to better determine the influence of competition and prey defences on the structure of insectivorous bat ensembles in southern Africa.
Azhdarchid pterosaurs were among the most widespread and successful of pterosaur clades, but their paleoecology remains controversial. Morphological features common to all azhdarchids include a long, shallow rostrum; elongate, cylindrical cervical vertebrae that formed a long and unusually inflexible neck; and proportionally short wings with an abbreviated fourth phalanx. While azhdarchids have been imagined as vulture-like scavengers, sediment probers, swimmers, waders, aerial predators, or stork-like generalists, most recent authors have regarded them as skim-feeders, trawling their lower jaws through water during flight and seizing aquatic prey from the water's surface. Although apparently widely accepted, the skim-feeding model lacks critical support from anatomy and functional morphology. Azhdarchids lack the many cranial specialisations exhibited by extant skim-feeding birds, most notably the laterally compressed lower jaw and shock absorbing apparatus required for this feeding style. Well-preserved azhdarchid skulls are rare, but their rostra and lower jaws appear to have been sub-triangular in cross-section, and thus dissimilar to those of skim-feeders and sediment probers. Taphonomic data indicates that azhdarchids predominately inhabited inland settings, and azhdarchid morphology indicates that they were poorly suited for all proposed lifestyles bar wading and terrestrial foraging. However, azhdarchid footprints show that their feet were relatively small, padded and slender, and thus not well suited for wading. We argue that azhdarchids were stork- or ground hornbill-like generalists, foraging in diverse environments for small animals and carrion. Proficient terrestrial abilities and a relatively inflexible neck are in agreement with this interpretation.
Reconstructing the history of divergence and gene flow between closely-related organisms has long been a difficult task of evolutionary genetics. Recently, new approaches based on the coalescence theory have been developed to test the existence of gene flow during the process of divergence. The deep sea is a motivating place to apply these new approaches. Differentiation by adaptation can be driven by the heterogeneity of the hydrothermal environment while populations should not have been strongly perturbed by climatic oscillations, the main cause of geographic isolation at the surface.
Samples of DNA sequences were obtained for seven nuclear loci and a mitochondrial locus in order to conduct a multi-locus analysis of divergence and gene flow between two closely related and hybridizing species of hydrothermal vent mussels, Bathymodiolus azoricus and B. puteoserpentis. The analysis revealed that (i) the two species have started to diverge approximately 0.760 million years ago, (ii) the B. azoricus population size was 2 to 5 time greater than the B. puteoserpentis and the ancestral population and (iii) gene flow between the two species occurred over the complete species range and was mainly asymmetric, at least for the chromosomal regions studied.
A long history of gene flow has been detected between the two Bathymodiolus species. However, it proved very difficult to conclusively distinguish secondary introgression from ongoing parapatric differentiation. As powerful as coalescence approaches could be, we are left by the fact that natural populations often deviates from standard assumptions of the underlying model. A more direct observation of the history of recombination at one of the seven loci studied suggests an initial period of allopatric differentiation during which recombination was blocked between lineages. Even in the deep sea, geographic isolation may well be a crucial promoter of speciation.
Community-based management and the establishment of marine reserves have been advocated worldwide as means to overcome overexploitation of fisheries. Yet, researchers and managers are divided regarding the effectiveness of these measures. The “tragedy of the commons” model is often accepted as a universal paradigm, which assumes that unless managed by the State or privatized, common-pool resources are inevitably overexploited due to conflicts between the self-interest of individuals and the goals of a group as a whole. Under this paradigm, the emergence and maintenance of effective community-based efforts that include cooperative risky decisions as the establishment of marine reserves could not occur. In this paper, we question these assumptions and show that outcomes of commons dilemmas can be complex and scale-dependent. We studied the evolution and effectiveness of a community-based management effort to establish, monitor, and enforce a marine reserve network in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Our findings build on social and ecological research before (1997–2001), during (2002) and after (2003–2004) the establishment of marine reserves, which included participant observation in >100 fishing trips and meetings, interviews, as well as fishery dependent and independent monitoring. We found that locally crafted and enforced harvesting rules led to a rapid increase in resource abundance. Nevertheless, news about this increase spread quickly at a regional scale, resulting in poaching from outsiders and a subsequent rapid cascading effect on fishing resources and locally-designed rule compliance. We show that cooperation for management of common-pool fisheries, in which marine reserves form a core component of the system, can emerge, evolve rapidly, and be effective at a local scale even in recently organized fisheries. Stakeholder participation in monitoring, where there is a rapid feedback of the systems response, can play a key role in reinforcing cooperation. However, without cross-scale linkages with higher levels of governance, increase of local fishery stocks may attract outsiders who, if not restricted, will overharvest and threaten local governance. Fishers and fishing communities require incentives to maintain their management efforts. Rewarding local effective management with formal cross-scale governance recognition and support can generate these incentives.
Deterministic evolution, phylogenetic contingency and evolutionary chance each can influence patterns of morphological diversification during adaptive radiation. In comparative studies of replicate radiations, convergence in a common morphospace implicates determinism, whereas non-convergence suggests the importance of contingency or chance.
The endemic cichlid fish assemblages of the three African great lakes have evolved similar sets of ecomorphs but show evidence of non-convergence when compared in a common morphospace, suggesting the importance of contingency and/or chance. We then analyzed the morphological diversity of each assemblage independently and compared their axes of diversification in the unconstrained global morphospace. We find that despite differences in phylogenetic composition, invasion history, and ecological setting, the three assemblages are diversifying along parallel axes through morphospace and have nearly identical variance-covariance structures among morphological elements.
By demonstrating that replicate adaptive radiations are diverging along parallel axes, we have shown that non-convergence in the common morphospace is associated with convergence in the global morphospace. Applying these complimentary analyses to future comparative studies will improve our understanding of the relationship between morphological convergence and non-convergence, and the roles of contingency, chance and determinism in driving morphological diversification.
As Earth warms, temperate and subpolar marine species will increasingly shift their geographic ranges poleward. The endemic shelf fauna of Antarctica is especially vulnerable to climate-mediated biological invasions because cold temperatures currently exclude the durophagous (shell-breaking) predators that structure shallow-benthic communities elsewhere.
We used the Eocene fossil record from Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula, to project specifically how global warming will reorganize the nearshore benthos of Antarctica. A long-term cooling trend, which began with a sharp temperature drop ∼41 Ma (million years ago), eliminated durophagous predators—teleosts (modern bony fish), decapod crustaceans (crabs and lobsters) and almost all neoselachian elasmobranchs (modern sharks and rays)—from Antarctic nearshore waters after the Eocene. Even prior to those extinctions, durophagous predators became less active as coastal sea temperatures declined from 41 Ma to the end of the Eocene, ∼33.5 Ma. In response, dense populations of suspension-feeding ophiuroids and crinoids abruptly appeared. Dense aggregations of brachiopods transcended the cooling event with no apparent change in predation pressure, nor were there changes in the frequency of shell-drilling predation on venerid bivalves.
Rapid warming in the Southern Ocean is now removing the physiological barriers to shell-breaking predators, and crabs are returning to the Antarctic Peninsula. Over the coming decades to centuries, we predict a rapid reversal of the Eocene trends. Increasing predation will reduce or eliminate extant dense populations of suspension-feeding echinoderms from nearshore habitats along the Peninsula while brachiopods will continue to form large populations, and the intensity of shell-drilling predation on infaunal bivalves will not change appreciably. In time the ecological effects of global warming could spread to other portions of the Antarctic coast. The differential responses of faunal components will reduce the endemic character of Antarctic subtidal communities, homogenizing them with nearshore communities at lower latitudes.
Marine reserves have been advocated worldwide as conservation and fishery management tools. It is argued that they can protect ecosystems and also benefit fisheries via density-dependent spillover of adults and enhanced larval dispersal into fishing areas. However, while evidence has shown that marine reserves can meet conservation targets, their effects on fisheries are less understood. In particular, the basic question of if and over what temporal and spatial scales reserves can benefit fished populations via larval dispersal remains unanswered. We tested predictions of a larval transport model for a marine reserve network in the Gulf of California, Mexico, via field oceanography and repeated density counts of recently settled juvenile commercial mollusks before and after reserve establishment. We show that local retention of larvae within a reserve network can take place with enhanced, but spatially-explicit, recruitment to local fisheries. Enhancement occurred rapidly (2 yrs), with up to a three-fold increase in density of juveniles found in fished areas at the downstream edge of the reserve network, but other fishing areas within the network were unaffected. These findings were consistent with our model predictions. Our findings underscore the potential benefits of protecting larval sources and show that enhancement in recruitment can be manifested rapidly. However, benefits can be markedly variable within a local seascape. Hence, effects of marine reserve networks, positive or negative, may be overlooked when only focusing on overall responses and not considering finer spatially-explicit responses within a reserve network and its adjacent fishing grounds. Our results therefore call for future research on marine reserves that addresses this variability in order to help frame appropriate scenarios for the spatial management scales of interest.
A dramatic expansion of road building is underway in the Congo Basin fuelled by private enterprise, international aid, and government aspirations. Among the great wilderness areas on earth, the Congo Basin is outstanding for its high biodiversity, particularly mobile megafauna including forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis). The abundance of many mammal species in the Basin increases with distance from roads due to hunting pressure, but the impacts of road proliferation on the movements of individuals are unknown. We investigated the ranging behaviour of forest elephants in relation to roads and roadless wilderness by fitting GPS telemetry collars onto a sample of 28 forest elephants living in six priority conservation areas. We show that the size of roadless wilderness is a strong determinant of home range size in this species. Though our study sites included the largest wilderness areas in central African forests, none of 4 home range metrics we calculated, including core area, tended toward an asymptote with increasing wilderness size, suggesting that uninhibited ranging in forest elephants no longer exists. Furthermore we show that roads outside protected areas which are not protected from hunting are a formidable barrier to movement while roads inside protected areas are not. Only 1 elephant from our sample crossed an unprotected road. During crossings her mean speed increased 14-fold compared to normal movements. Forest elephants are increasingly confined and constrained by roads across the Congo Basin which is reducing effective habitat availability and isolating populations, significantly threatening long term conservation efforts. If the current road development trajectory continues, forest wildernesses and the forest elephants they contain will collapse.
Coral reefs can undergo relatively rapid changes in the dominant biota, a phenomenon referred to as phase shift. Various reasons have been proposed to explain this phenomenon including increased human disturbance, pollution, or changes in coral reef biota that serve a major ecological function such as depletion of grazers. However, pinpointing the actual factors potentially responsible can be problematic. Here we show a phase shift from coral to the corallimorpharian Rhodactis howesii associated with a long line vessel that wrecked in 1991 on an isolated atoll (Palmyra) in the central Pacific Ocean. We documented high densities of R. howesii near the ship that progressively decreased with distance from the ship whereas R. howesii were rare to absent in other parts of the atoll. We also confirmed high densities of R. howesii around several buoys recently installed on the atoll in 2001. This is the first time that a phase shift on a coral reef has been unambiguously associated with man-made structures. This association was made, in part, because of the remoteness of Palmyra and its recent history of minimal human habitation or impact. Phase shifts can have long-term negative ramification for coral reefs, and eradication of organisms responsible for phase shifts in marine ecosystems can be difficult, particularly if such organisms cover a large area. The extensive R. howesii invasion and subsequent loss of coral reef habitat at Palmyra also highlights the importance of rapid removal of shipwrecks on corals reefs to mitigate the potential of reef overgrowth by invasives.
Many plants and animals are defended from predation or herbivory by inhibitory secondary metabolites, which in the marine environment are very common among sessile organisms. Among bacteria, where there is the greatest metabolic potential, little is known about chemical defenses against bacterivorous consumers. An emerging hypothesis is that sessile bacterial communities organized as biofilms serve as bacterial refuge from predation. By testing growth and survival of two common bacterivorous nanoflagellates, we find evidence that chemically mediated resistance against protozoan predators is common among biofilm populations in a diverse set of marine bacteria. Using bioassay-guided chemical and genetic analysis, we identified one of the most effective antiprotozoal compounds as violacein, an alkaloid that we demonstrate is produced predominately within biofilm cells. Nanomolar concentrations of violacein inhibit protozoan feeding by inducing a conserved eukaryotic cell death program. Such biofilm-specific chemical defenses could contribute to the successful persistence of biofilm bacteria in various environments and provide the ecological and evolutionary context for a number of eukaryote-targeting bacterial metabolites.
The flora of California, a global biodiversity hotspot, includes 2387 endemic plant taxa. With anticipated climate change, we project that up to 66% will experience >80% reductions in range size within a century. These results are comparable with other studies of fewer species or just samples of a region's endemics. Projected reductions depend on the magnitude of future emissions and on the ability of species to disperse from their current locations. California's varied terrain could cause species to move in very different directions, breaking up present-day floras. However, our projections also identify regions where species undergoing severe range reductions may persist. Protecting these potential future refugia and facilitating species dispersal will be essential to maintain biodiversity in the face of climate change.
Controlling vertebrate predators is one of the most widespread forms of wildlife management and it continues to cause conflict between stakeholders worldwide. It is important for managers and policy-makers to make decisions on this issue that are based on the best available scientific evidence. Therefore, it is first important to understand if there is indeed an impact of vertebrate predators on prey, and then to quantify this impact.
Using the UK as a case study, we use a meta-analytical approach to review the available evidence to assess the effect of vertebrate predation on animal prey abundance. We find a significant effect of predators on prey abundance across our studies. On average, there is a 1.6 fold increase in prey abundance in the absence of predation. However, we show significant heterogeneity in effect sizes, and discuss how the method of predator control, whether the predator is native or non-native, and aspects of study design, may be potential causes.
Our results allow some cautious policy recommendations to be made regarding the management of predator and prey populations. Meta-analysis is an important tool for understanding general patterns in the effect of predators on prey abundance across studies. Such an approach is especially valuable where management decisions need to be made in the absence of site-specific information.