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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 125:171-183 (1995)  -  doi:10.3354/meps125171

Nematode assemblages of deep-sea and shelf break sites in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea

Soetaert K, Heip C

The nematode community structure of several shelf break and deep-sea stations in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean is compared using data from the literature. Samples from 2 Mediterranean deep-sea canyons have a unique fauna of predatory and scavenging nematodes (e.g. Synonchiella, Halichoanolaimus, Gammanema) which comprise some 20 to 30% of the community, while some of the typical deep-sea genera (Theristus, Acantholaimus) are only marginally present. The nematode generic composition of the other sites reveals a gentle transition from the shelf break (Bay of Biscay; Mediterranean) over the slope (Mediterranean) towards the continental rise, abyssal plain and hadal depths (Bay of Biscay, Puerto Rico Trench, HEBBLE site, Hatteras Abyssal Plain). At all these sites predators and omnivores are less abundant (<10%), while bacterial feeders (deposit and epistrate feeders) predominate. With increasing water depth, the genus Sabatieria becomes less dominant, while the genera Theristus, Acantholaimus and Halalaimus gain in importance. We suggest that this is caused by the growing importance of the oxic mineralization pathway at greater depth. As such the relative amount of organic matter that enters the suboxic and anoxic regions of the sediment diminishes with depth. These anoxic or suboxic regions are typically inhabited by Sabatieria. It is argued that larger fluxes of organic matter to the bottom in the Mediterranean canyon, compared to the other sites, allow for a higher trophic complexity of the nematode communities and a higher mean nematode biomass. Trends in nematode biomass, mean individual weight and nematode density are discussed.

Deep-sea . Shelf . Nematode . Atlantic . Mediterranean

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