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

Joana Figueiredo


In 2010, the largest oil spill in U.S history occurred off the coast of Louisiana from April 20th to September 19th, when the well was declared officially sealed by the U.S Coast Guard, after releasing more than 4.4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) (McNutt et al., 2012). This spill was unique because it occurred in deep water approximately 1500 m below the ocean surface. Virtually nothing is known about the effects of oil spills on marine life in the deep sea, and there are limited data on mesopelagic and bathypelagic animals in the GOM before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWHOS). The study presented here focuses on one of the most abundant and diverse groups of pelagic decapod crustaceans in the GOM – the family Oplophoridae and also includes one species from the family Pandalidae. Past studies on pelagic decapod crustaceans have been limited on both spatial and temporal scales. This study is unique because 1) it covers a large temporal range with data collected in 2011 and from 2015-2017, allowing for a more in-depth look at crustacean assemblage patterns, 2) it allows analysis of seasonality in reproduction, about which little is known for any deep-sea species, and 3) it assesses the potential effects of the Loop Current on species distribution and abundances, about which little is known. This information is important in understanding how the DWHOS may have affected the GOM ecosystem because pelagic decapod crustacean are intermediate components of the food web, and are in turn preyed upon by higher trophic levels. Unfortunately, there were little data on the mesopelagic ecosystem from this region before the spill, with the exception of a site in the eastern GOM (Standard Station, Hopkins et al., 1989; Hopkins et al., 1994). Therefore, these data, which incorporate samples taken one, five, six and seven years after the DWHOS, were analyzed with respect to year and season to determine if any trends were present. Results indicate that both biomass and abundance were significantly higher in 2011, than in subsequent years, indicating that the ecosystem has been declining since 2011. These two parameters were also lower in Loop Current water when compared to Common Water at all depths up to 1200 m, indicating that the Loop Current does have effects on deeper waters. The information obtained from this thesis will also act as a reference state for future studies in the GOM to monitor changes, or lack thereof, in the assemblage of deep-sea oplophorid and pandalid crustaceans.