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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 397:53-61 (2009)  -  DOI:

Characteristics of a black coral meadow in the twilight zone of the central Mediterranean Sea

M. Bo1,*, G. Bavestrello1, S. Canese2, M. Giusti2, E. Salvati2, M. Angiolillo2, S. Greco2

1Dipartimento di Scienze del Mare, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, 60131, Italy
2Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA, formerly ICRAM), Via di Casalotti 300, Roma, 00166, Italy

ABSTRACT: The hard substrata of the Mediterranean twilight zone commonly host the large, white, branched Antipathella subpinnata (Antipatharia, Myriopathidae). We discovered one of the largest populations of this black coral ever recorded in the Mediterranean Sea, forming a meadow of thousands of colonies in the deep waters off the Calabrian coast (South Italy, Tyrrhenian Sea). The meadow extends from 50 to 100 m depth and is a mixed assemblage of black coral and gorgonian colonies showing specific bathymetric ranges. Antipatharians inhabit the northern slopes of the explored rocky pinnacles receiving the northward moving current of the Strait of Messina. Up to 44% of the black corals are colonized by several encrusting epibionts. A. subpinnata deserves protection since it creates an important 3-dimensional habitat and represents the most characteristic component of the lower fringe of the circalittoral twilight environment in the Mediterranean Sea.

KEY WORDS: Black corals · Deep corals · Population structure · Twilight zone · ROV imaging

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Cite this article as: Bo M, Bavestrello G, Canese S, Giusti M, Salvati E, Angiolillo M, Greco S (2009) Characteristics of a black coral meadow in the twilight zone of the central Mediterranean Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 397:53-61.

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