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Biodiversity of echinoids and their epibionts around the Scotia Arc, Antarctica

  • Katrin Linse (a1), Lisa J. Walker (a2) and David K.A. Barnes (a1)

The Scotia Arc, linking the Magellan region with the Antarctic Peninsula, comprises young and old islands both near continents and isolated, and is the only semi-continuous link between cool temperate and Antarctic environments. It is an ideal region for studies on how marine biodiversity changes across an extended transition zone. Echinoids (sea urchins) and their associated epibionts were found across depths from 91–1045 m, with 19 species from shelf and four from slope depths. The 23 species from 38 trawls represent 31% of all echinoid species known from the Southern Ocean and 38% of the shelf/upper slope echinoids. The specimens collected comprise representatives of the five families Cidaridae, Echinidae, Temnopleuridae, Schizasteridae and Pourtalesiidae. Echinoids are probably a good model for how well we know Antarctic shelf and slope megabenthos; none of the species we report are new to science but we found nine (39%) of our study species present at new localities, some thousands of kilometres from previous findings. New biogeographic ranges are illustrated for Ctenocidaris gigantea, C. nutrix, C. spinosa, Abatus curvidens, A. ingens, A. shackletoni, Amphineustes rostratus, Tripylaster philippi and Pourtalesia aurorae. Southern Ocean echinoids show eurybathy as the mean depth range of our study species was 1241 m and only one was at less than 500 m. The current view of echinoid dominance of super-abundance in the shallows seems to be not transferable to shelf and slope depths as only one of 38 trawls was dominated by echinoids. Current knowledge on maximum sizes in Antarctic echinoids seems to be good as our morphometric measurements were mainly within known size ranges. Regular echinoids increased predictably in mass with increasing test length, apart from Ctenocidaris spinosa. Tissue mass of cidaroid species was ~17%, but across irregular species varied from 17.7–8.9%. No epibionts were found on irregular echinoids or Echinidae but 70 cidaroids examined carried 51 species representing ten classes. Many of these species are reported as cidaroid epibionts for the first time. Cidaroids and their epibionts constituted > 38% of the total macrofaunal richness in the trawls they were present in. Echinoids and their epibionts clearly contribute significantly to Southern Ocean biodiversity but are minor components of biomass except in the shallows.

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