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Biodiversity of nematode assemblages from deep-sea sediments of the Atacama Slope and Trench (South Pacific Ocean)

Biodiversity of nematode assemblages from deep-sea sediments of the Atacama Slope and Trench (South Pacific Ocean)

Deep Sea Research Part I Oceanographic Research Papers uary; 50(1): 103-117

Nematode assemblages were investigated (in terms of size spectra, sex ratio, Shannon diversity, trophic structure and diversity, rarefaction statistics, maturity index, taxonomic diversity and taxonomic distinctness) at bathyal and hadal depths (from 1050 to 7800m) in the deepest trench of the South Pacific Ocean: the Trench of Atacama. This area characterised by very high concentrations of nutritionally-rich organic matter also at 7800-m depth, displayed characteristics typical of eutrophic systems and revealed high nematode densities (> 6000 ind. 10 cm-2). Nematode assemblages from the Atacama Trench displayed a different composition than at bathyal depths. At bathyal depths 95 genera and 119 species were found (Comesomatidae, Cyatholaimidae, Microlaimidae, Desmodoridae and Xyalidae being dominant), whereas in the Atacama Trench only 29 genera and 37 species were encountered (dominated by Monhysteridae, Chromadoridae, Microlaimidae, Oxystominidae and Xyalidae). The genus Monhystera (24.4%) strongly dominated at hadal depths and Neochromadora, and Trileptium were observed only in the Atacama Trench, but not at bathyal depths. A reduction of the mean nematode size (by ca. 67%) was observed between bathyal and hadal depths. Since food availability was not a limiting factor in the Atacama Trench sediments, other causes are likely to be responsible for the reduction of nematode species richness and body size. The presence of a restricted number of families and genera in the Atacama Trench might indicate that hadal sediments limited nematode colonisation. Most of the genera reaching very high densities in Trench sediments (e.g., Monhystera) are opportunistic and were responsible for the significant decrease of the maturity index. The dominance of opportunists, which are known to be characterised by small sizes, might have contributed to the reduced nematode size at hadal depths. Shannon diversity and species richness decreased in hadal water depth and this pattern was more evident at genus than at species level. Epistrate feeders dominated and increased their relevance, determining a reduction of the index of trophic diversity at hadal depths. According to trophic diversity, taxonomic diversity and distinctness also decreased with depth. All diversity indices from the Atacama Slope and Trench were lower than in other equally deep areas world wide (e.g. Puerto Rico Trench). We suggest that such reduction was related to the high nutrient loading observed in this system (up to two orders of magnitude higher than in typical oligotrophic deep-sea sediments).

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Accession: 020663982

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DOI: 10.1016/s0967-0637(02)00143-7

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