A Comparative Analysis of Macrofaunal Communities Associated with Whale, Wood, and Kelp Falls on the Deep-Sea Floor
Lutz, Gina Marie
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The ocean floor is home to a richly diverse assemblage of organisms. The macrofaunal community structure in these aphotic zones is largely supported by a base of reducing chemosynthetic bacteria that can be found in habitats such as hydrothermal vents, hydrocarbon seeps, and organic remains in the deep-sea. This study uses macrofauna population counts sampled from sunken organic remains termed/ood/alls. Food falls are known to contribute to the overall diversity of the deep-sea by increasing habitat patchiness on the deep-ocean floor. Whale falls, wood falls, and kelp fall species counts were used to describe and compare the different fall types on the species, familial, and community levels. The four most abundant taxa for each food fall were used to assess the taxonomic and trophic overlap of the different communities. Out of a total sixteen taxa examined, there were six cases in which two or more food falls shared a common abundant taxa. Similarities between trophic characters of taxa and individual species across fall-type also indicated shared community characteristics. This linkage of the different food fall types is especially relevant in light of recent genetic work that connects the evolutionary history of vent, seep, and whale fall animals.