Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Event Name/Location

Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Montreal, Quebec, July 24-28, 2008

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The assemblage structure and vertical distribution of deep-pelagic fishes relative to a mid-ocean ridge system is described from an acoustic and discrete-depth trawling survey conducted as part of the international Census of Marine Life field project MAR-ECO. A survey along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), covering the full depth range (0 to >3000 m) with a combination of gear types, was conducted to understand the role of the pelagic fauna in ecosystem dynamics. A total of 205 fish species were collected by midwater sampling. Depth was by far the primary assemblage composition determinant, with ridge section secondary. The dominant ichthyofaunal component was a widespread assemblage of fishes between 750-3000 m, from Iceland to the Azores. Some zonation was apparent in the northern and southern ends of this large depth stratum, with six smaller assemblages of fishes exhibiting limited distributions. Biomass per volume reached a water column maximum in the bathypelagic zone between 1500-2300 m. This stands in stark contrast to the general “open ocean” paradigm that biomass decreases exponentially from the surface downwards. As much of the summit of the MAR extends into this depth layer, a likely explanation for this midwater maximum is ridge association. Fish density within the benthic boundary layer (within 200 m of the ridge) was nearly double that of the water column and biomass was approximately 50% higher. Of the ‘ridge-associating’ species, two species known to consume gelata, Bathylagus euryops and Scopelogadus beanii, contributed over half of the fish biomass of this layer. These data suggest that a pelagic fish-gelata trophic linkage may be a key element of benthic-pelagic coupling over mid-ocean ridges, thus supporting enhanced nekton biomass over ridges in the absence of terrigenous nutrient input. Ongoing research to better understand this trophic linkage will be presented.