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


Intensive Sampling of the Gulf of Mexico Reveals a Global Hotspot of Meso- and Bathypelagic Fish Biodiversity

Event Name/Location

10th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference, Tapeete, Tahiti, October 1-7, 2017

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The paucity of, and subsequent need for, biological data from the meso- and bathypelagic zones was highlighted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill originated at 1500 m depth and prior to 2011 there was no inventory of the Gulf of Mexico bathypelagial (> 1000 m depth ) and that of the mesopelagial (200-1000 m) was largely limited to the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Intensive sampling and analysis since that time has revealed an exceptionally speciose oceanic fish assemblage with endemic species. Here, we present results from two large-scale research programs investigating the ichthyofaunal structure and dynamics of the deep-pelagic Gulf of Mexico, from the surface to 1500 m depth. Both a 10-m2 multiple opening/closing net and a large high-speed rope trawl were used to cover the size spectrum of fishes from larvae to adults, with a total of 522 deployments (1,851 trawl samples). The two gear types collected different subsets of the faunal inventory most notably separated by life history stage, behavior, and/or overall rarity. These differences will be explored by comparing species abundance and length frequencies collected by each gear type. To date 794 fish species have been identified, of which 180 are new records for the Gulf of Mexico, including one newly described and 20 putative undescribed species. This increases the total fish species number for the Gulf of Mexico large marine ecosystem by over 10%. Biodiversity measures, rarely quantified in the deep-pelagial, will be discussed. Despite intensive sampling, the species accumulation curve has not reached asymptote; additional species will likely be recorded with additional sampling.

First Page


Last Page