MEPS 364:67-76 (2008)  -  DOI:

Ectosymbiosis is a critical factor in the local benthic biodiversity of the Antarctic deep sea

Vincent Hétérier1,2, Bruno David1, Chantal De Ridder2, Thierry Rigaud1,*

1Université de Bourgogne, Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 5561, 6 bd. Gabriel, 21000 Dijon, France
2Laboratoire de Biologie marine (C.P. 160/15), Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 av. F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: In deep-sea benthic environments, competition for hard substrates is a critical factor in the distribution and diversity of organisms. In this context, the occurrence of biotic substrates in addition to mineral substrates may change the characteristics of sessile fauna. We tested this hypothesis at different localities of the Weddell Sea (Antarctica) by studying the diversity of ectosymbionts living on the spines of cidaroids (echinoids). The presence of cidaroids promoted a higher total specific richness and increased sessile species abundance, but did not change the diversity. Analyses of species distribution suggested that the cidaroids are a favourable habitat for sessile organisms, compared to rocks, but are colonized by relatively specialist sessile species, leaving the unfavourable rock habitat to more generalist species. Therefore, our study highlights the role of some living organisms, such as cidaroids, as key species increasing Antarctic benthic deep-sea species richness through the niche they provide to symbiotic species.

KEY WORDS: Symbiosis · Species diversity · Species abundance · Null models · Cidaroids · Weddell Sea

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Cite this article as: Hétérier V, David B, De Ridder C, Rigaud T, (2008) Ectosymbiosis is a critical factor in the local benthic biodiversity of the Antarctic deep sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 364:67-76.

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