Influence of trophic variables on the depth-range distributions and zonation rates of deep-sea megafauna: The case of the Western Mediterranean assemblages

Joan E. Cartes, Maite Carrassón

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Abstract

We studied in a deep-sea megafaunal community the relationship of different trophic variables to the depth ranges inhabited by and depth zonation of species, after the ordination of fish and decapod crustaceans in feeding guilds. The variables studied included trophic level of species, food sources exploited, mean weight of predators and prey, feeding intensity and dietary diversity of species. We compiled data on the diets of 18 species of fish and 14 species of decapod crustaceans distributed between 862 and 2261m in the Catalano-Balearic Basin (Western Mediterranean). Feeding guilds were identified for fish and decapods separately and at two depth strata (862-1400 and 1400-2261m). The zonation rates (degree of depth overlap) between species within each trophic guild differed by guild and taxon (fish and decapods). The three guilds (G1, G2 and G3) of decapod crustaceans showed quite significantly distinct overlap. G1 (plankton feeders) showed the widest overlap (1326-1381m) and G3 (benthos feeders) the narrowest (330-476m). Among the four guilds established for fish, G1, comprising larger predators such as sharks, showed the lowest overlap (between 194 and 382m). Macrourids overlap ranged between 122 and 553m, the rest of benthopelagic feeders ranged between 423 and 970m, and G3 (benthos feeders) gave overlaps between 867 and 1067m. Significant differences were detected between the depth overlap of most feeding guilds excluding the paired comparisons between G1/macrourids, and G2/G3. Among decapods higher zonation rates (=lower depth overlap) were identified in those guilds occupying higher trophic levels (TL), with a similar, though not as general, trend among fish. In the ordination of species in feeding guilds, TL as indicated by δ15N measurements, was significantly correlated with Dimension 1 (D1) of ordination - MDS-analysis, both in fish and decapods at 862-1400m. However, deeper (at 1400-2261m), D1 was not significantly correlated with TL but with the mean weight of predator and prey in fish. In general, TL was again the main explanatory variable (accumulated variances, r2, explained by multi-linear regression - MLR-models between 0.54 and 0.69) both of the zonation rates and the depth ranges occupied by megafauna (fish and decapods together) throughout all the depth range studied. Possible relationships between zonation rates/depth distributions and other biological variables (i.e. egg size, fecundity) are also discussed. © 2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-279
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Volume51
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

Keywords

  • Crustaceans
  • Deep sea
  • Faunal zonation
  • Fish
  • Trophic level
  • Trophic webs
  • Western Mediterranean

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