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Influence of foundation species, depth, and location on diversity and community composition at Gulf of Mexico lower-slope cold seeps

Deep Sea Research Part II Topical Studies in Oceanography
DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.05.010
  • Biogeography
  • Biodiversity
  • Rarefaction Curves
  • Vestimentifera
  • Escarpia
  • Lamellibrachia
  • Bathymodiolus
  • Biology
  • Ecology


Abstract Efforts to understand and preserve the seep communities of the deep Gulf of Mexico (GOM) begin with a comprehensive survey of the biodiversity of these communities. Previous studies have provided a conceptual model of the physiology, population, and community ecology of upper continental slope seeps. However, seeps at water depths below 1000m in the Gulf of Mexico remain relatively unknown. In this study, data from 47 samples of tubeworm- and mussel-associated communities at depths of 1005–2750m are examined. Other than tubeworms and mussels, 66 taxa of macro- and megafauna were collected, 43 of which appear to be restricted to water depths of over 1000m, and 39 that have not been reported previously from the Gulf of Mexico. Diversity in mussel beds was highest at mid-slope depths, but tubeworm-associated communities did not show clear bathymetric trends in diversity. Diversity was higher in tubeworm aggregations at the alpha level (per sample), but higher in mussel beds at the beta level (species turnover among collections). Although both community types were often numerically dominated by the endemic shrimp Alvinocaris muricola, broad differences in the communities hosted by tubeworm aggregations and mussel beds were apparent. The most important factors explaining community similarity within community type were the depth, relative abundance of different mussel species in a bed, and the average size of tubeworms in an aggregation. The high proportion of deep-seep species that were found for the first time in the Gulf of Mexico emphasizes the importance of conservation efforts for these patchy communities.

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