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Rotifers in saltwater environments, re-evaluation of an inconspicuous taxon

  • Diego Fontaneto (a1), Willem H. De Smet (a2) and Claudia Ricci (a1)


Rotifers are microscopic aquatic animals that comprise more than 1800 species. Most rotifer species live in freshwater and limno-terrestrial habitats, while thalassic environments (brackish+seawater) are thought to host few species. No recent review of saline rotifers is available. Here we report the results of a review of the literature concerning rotifers from saline environments, distinguished into three categories: stenohaline, euryhaline, and haloxenous, and found both in truly marine habitats and/or in inland saline waters. A total of about 200 studies, mentioning fully identified rotifers from saline waters, allowed us to list as many as 443 rotifer taxa at either specific, subspecific and infrasubspecific rank, corresponding to 391 nominal species. Truly thalassic taxa, not found in inland saline waters only, accounted for 289, including the ‘stenohaline’ (143) and the euryhaline (146) ones. As for freshwaters, the majority of the thalassic rotifers inhabit the psammon, or display a benthic–periphytic way of life, while the plankton likewise is less species rich and less abundant. The geographical distribution of the brackish and marine rotifers largely reflects the distribution of rotifer investigators, therefore, no biogeographical analysis can be performed yet. In conclusion, the analysis of literature citing rotifers in salt waters, uncovers an unexpected rotifer fauna: the apparent richness of the group in thalassic environments is worthy of being addressed by further investigations, as many species have been reported only by their description, suggesting either considerable endemism or taxonomic errors.


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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
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