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

Event Name/Location

Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Vancouver, Canada, August 8-14, 2012

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Recent global synthetic analyses have revealed that marine taxonomic inventories are far from complete, nowhere more so than in the deep-pelagic ocean. At over a billion km3, it is the largest biome on Earth, yet only a tiny fraction of the biogeographic records include the bathypelagic fauna. This data gap served as the impetus for recent deepwater surveys, many of which have altered our perceptions of pelagic ecosystems. Here we examine data from four deep-pelagic (0-5000+ m) sampling programs in the Atlantic (60°N-25°S) in order to assess the character of bathypelagic fish communities with respect to faunal distinctiveness and ecological connectivity. Regions studied include the Gulf of Mexico, Sargasso 702 Sea, eastern North/South Atlantic, and mid-North Atlantic. Quantitative analyses give contrasting pictures with respect to faunal composition and ecosystem operation. The discreteness of the bathypelagic zone is exhibited faunistically by the suite of ―holobathypelagic‖ species found only below 1000 m, most of which are highly modified morphologically. Geometric abundance class analyses reveal that the character of relative species abundance distributions between the meso- and bathypelagic zones is fundamentally dissimilar; the former exhibit a much higher proportion of common species, while the latter exhibit a much higher percentage of rarer species. From a community energetics perspective, however, the bathy- and mesopelagic zones are highly interconnected. Approximately 70% of fish species collected below 1000 m are also found in the mesopelagic zone, and in the far North Atlantic, are also found in the epipelagial. These species comprised 66 to >90% of individuals collected below 1000 m in the regions sampled. In the mid-North Atlantic, these species contribute to the unexpected water-column biomass maximum observed between 1500-2300 m. Thus, the ―transient‖ taxa (primarily mesopelagic migrators and spanner taxa) add considerably to the ichthyofaunal diversity of the world ocean below 1000 m, and appear to be the vectors that support the diverse array of holobathypelagic fishes whose taxonomic composition is dominated by piscivores. Data from the four regions studied suggests that classic pelagic biogeographic boundaries do not apply to bathypelagic realm, as shared species are the rule rather than the exception. Last, cumulative species curves suggest we are far from understanding the true complexity of the bathypelagic zone.