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Open Access The role of habitat selection on the diversity of macrobenthic communities in three gulfs of the Cuban Archipelago

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Diversity and faunal composition of macrobenthic communities remain poorly known in the Caribbean Sea. Here, we explore the diversity and abundance of marine macrobenthos across three gulfs of the Cuban Archipelago and examine the role of habitat type in determining faunal composition and function. Samples collected from 32 soft-bottom sites across four habitat types (mangroves, seagrass beds, unvegetated mud bottoms, and coral reefs) yielded 4231 individuals representing 22 higher macrobenthic taxa. The most abundant taxa were polychaetes, nematodes, crustaceans, and mollusks. Mollusk fauna was particularly diverse (105 species and 74 genera) despite being dominated by two taxa: a bivalve (Parvilucina sp.) and gastropods (Caecum spp). Habitat type was weakly interrelated with the faunal composition of the entire macrobenthos and its molluscan component (<20% of explained variance, in both cases). This weak correlation might reflect the influence of within-habitat heterogeneity, ecological drift, or dispersal barriers. Functional traits differed among habitats, with infaunal mollusks typically found in mud bottom and carnivores more abundant in mangroves. The regional mollusk species richness (105 species) exceeded the richness observed within individual gulfs (39, 40, and 59 species), highlighting high regional diversity. Anthropogenic factors could also be at play. The results suggest, tentatively, that fisheries might have affected the functional and taxonomic structuring of the sampled macrobenthic communities. This initial survey suggests that habitat selection does not exert a strong effect on the macrobenthos (or its molluscan component), and other assembly processes such as drift, dispersal, and human impacts may be important.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, Universidad de La Habana. 16 # 114, Havana, CP 11300, Cuba;, Email: [email protected] 2: Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, Universidad de La Habana. 16 # 114, Havana, CP 11300, Cuba 3: Instituto de Oceanología, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, Ave 1ª, No. 18406, Reparto Flores, Playa, Havana, CP 11600, Cuba 4: Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236 5: Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611

Publication date: April 1, 2018

This article was made available online on January 18, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "The role of habitat selection on the diversity of macrobenthic communities in three gulfs of the Cuban Archipelago".

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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