The classification and structure of megafaunal assemblages in the Venezuela Basin, Caribbean Sea
Data from 23 benthic trawls collected from the Venezuela Basin (3411–5062 m water depth) indicate that megafauna are less abundant than in basins of similar depths in the Atlantic and are segregated by sedimentary province. Taxonomic assemblages, in terms of abundance and biomass, from three sites coincide with distinctions of sedimentary characteristics among the pelagic, hemipelagic and turbidite sedimentary provinces. Mollusks, decapods and fishes are most abundant in trawls collected from the pelagic and hemipelagic provinces and anemones and holothurians are most abundant in trawls collected from the turbidite province. Sponges dominate the biomass of fauna in trawls collected in the turbidite and hemipelagic provinces and fishes dominate the biomass of trawls collected in the pelagic province. Several biological and physical aspects of the basin contribute to the segregation of the megafauna into distinct communities. Sponges and anthropogenic debris (coal, coal clinker and tar balls) reaching the sea floor create a habitat that is exploited by sessile suspension feeders requiring a hard substrate. Filter-feeding anemones attached to debris occur in such abundance that it elevates the importance of suspension feeders and depresses species diversity at the turbidite site. Biomass and average size of megafaunal deposit feeders in the basin decrease with decreasing amounts of organic carbon and nitrogen content of the sediment. Distribution and composition of filter-feeding megafaunal biomass in the Venezuela Basin are explained largely by proximity to sources of organic matter. Detrital carbonate may also play a role in controlling distribution and density of megafauna by diluting food resources in the sediments.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 1996
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