MEPS - Vol. 399 - Feature article

Thaumastasoma species 521 (Crustacea; Isopoda; Nannoniscidae), a typical species of the lower continental slope. Photo: George D. F. Wilson

Wei CL, Rowe GT, Hubbard GF, Scheltema AH, Wilson GDF, Petrescu I, Foster JM, Wicksten MK, Chen M, Davenport R, Soliman Y, Wang Y


Bathymetric zonation of deep-sea macrofauna in relation to export of surface phytoplankton production


Life in the deep sea relies to a large degree on detrital carbon from photosynthesis at the ocean surface. This export of energy declines rapidly with depth and has been suggested as the principal control of faunal zonation on continental margins. Wei and co-workers analyzed the benthic macrofauna of the northern Gulf of Mexico, from highly productive submarine canyons of the continental slope to the depauperate abyssal plain. They found that faunal zones align parallel to isobaths, and also vary horizontally from east to west within the basin. The horizontal partitioning is associated with the productive Mississippi River water and adjacent canyon, suggesting that food availability controls deep-sea faunal zonation.


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