HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Tamara Frank

Second Advisor

Tracey Sutton

Third Advisor

Charles Messing


This thesis presents the first description of the geographic and depth distributions of pelagic decapod shrimps in the area located around the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, based on the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) NRDA (National Resource Damage Assessment) trawl samples collected from April – June, 2011. This information is important in ecosystem models investigating trophic effects of the spill because pelagic decapod shrimp are consumed by a variety of organisms occupying higher trophic levels. One of the most abundant and diverse groups of decapods is the Family Oplophoridae. Their roles in pelagic food webs in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and other deep-sea ecosystems makes them ideal candidates for study; however, only a limited amount of research has been conducted on their distribution and reproductive biology. In the northeastern GOM, all previous studies have been conducted at Standard Station in the eastern Gulf (27°N, 86°W) (Hopkins and Lancraft, 1984; Hopkins et al., 1989; Hopkins and Gartner, 1992; Hopkins et al., 1994). The current study is unique because 1) it provides data from regions of the Gulf where oplophorids have never been studied, 2) allows for comparisons of distributions and abundances of oplophorid species in both the mesopelagic and bathypelagic zones by using a continuous data set, and 3) compares assemblages from two distinct bathymetric environments in the northeastern GOM: continental slope (200-1000 m bottom depth) and offshore (>1000 m). As the study site also encompasses the region most strongly impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, these data represent the first quantification of any component of the decapod crustacean assemblage in this location after the oil spill, and will be used for comparison with data obtained during future DEEPEND Consortium (Deep Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico) cruises to monitor changes, or lack thereof, in the assemblage after exposure to Deepwater Horizon oil and dispersants in the water column.

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