MEPS - Vol. 317 - Feature article

The standing stock of benthic megafaunal species, such as the sea urchin Hygrosoma petersii and the ophiuroid Ophiomusium lymani (photo), decreases more rapidly with increasing depth than in smaller species that inhabit the sediment. Photo: Ruth D. Turner

Rex MA, Etter RJ, Morris JS, Crouse J, McClain CR, Johnson NA, Stuart CT, Deming JW, Thies R, Avery R

 

Global bathymetric patterns of standing stock and body size in the deep-sea benthos

 

Michael Rex and co-authors present the first global-scale synthesis of abundance and biomass in the deep-sea benthic community. Standing stock of the benthos appears to decrease exponentially with depth throughout the world ocean. Smaller organisms become progressively more dominant with increasing depth, confirming Thiel’s Size Structure Hypothesis that average size decreases as a result of severe energy constraints. Bathymetric trends in standing stock and body size indicate that there is less ecological and evolutionary opportunity to support larger organisms in the abyss than at bathyal depths along the continental margins. This may explain the low diversity of large organisms at great depths.

 

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