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Association between the squat lobster Gastroptychus formosus and cold-water corals in the North Atlantic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 June 2010

E. Le Guilloux
Ifremer, Département Etude des Ecosystèmes Profonds, Laboratoire Environnement Profond, Centre de Brest, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France
J.M. Hall-Spencer
Marine Institute, Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
M.K. Söffker
Ecotoxicology and Aquatic Biology Research Group, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, Devon, UK
K. Olu*
Ifremer, Département Etude des Ecosystèmes Profonds, Laboratoire Environnement Profond, Centre de Brest, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France
Correspondence should be addressed to: K. Olu, Ifremer, Département Etude des Ecosystèmes Profonds, Laboratoire Environnement Profond, Centre de Brest, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France email:


Although there are no previous descriptions of the habits of chirostylids in the North Atlantic, it is likely that species in the genera Uroptychus, Eumunida and Gastroptychus have close ecological ties with deep-sea corals since they have all been recorded in trawl samples containing corals from >200 m depth. We analysed in situ distribution of Gastroptychus formosus and potential hosts using a ROV at a range of north-eastern Atlantic sites and found that this species forms a close association with deep-sea corals that resembles the chirostylid–anthozoan associations reported in shallow Indo-Pacific waters. We update the known distribution for G. formosus, confirming that it is an amphiatlantic species that occurs along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at least as far south as the Azores and along continental margins from the Canary Islands to Scotland at depths of 600–1700 m. The adults have very specific habitat preferences, being only found on gorgonian and antipatharian corals with a strong preference for Leiopathes sp. as a host. This highly restricted habitat preference is likely to render chirostylids vulnerable to the impacts of demersal fishing both directly, as by-catch, and indirectly through habitat loss.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2010

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