Wealth of new species discovered from the abyssal plains of the Atlantic Ocean

Preliminary findings from an expedition last year to the deep-sea of the Angola Basin are revealing a wealth of new information on biodiversity in the poorly known depths of the south Atlantic Ocean.

The early results from the project Latitudinal Gradients in the Deep Sea of the Atlantic Ocean: DIVA were presented at a workshop at the University of Oldenburg, Germany, on September 18, 2001. The results were the first reports from a team of 39 taxonomists from Germany, Russia, Spain and the USA who have been collaborating to collect and describe fauna from an expedition in June 2000 to survey deep-sea organisms along a 700km transect, at a depth of 5000m, in the Angola Basin.

One of the project leaders, Dr. Wolfgang Wgele of Ruhr-Universitt Bochum, Germany, said the preliminary findings presented in Septembers workshop reveal a large number of new species from this remote and inaccessible habitat.

For example, of 38 Cumacea (small crustaceans, 1 10 mm in size) 22 are new species, and up to 90% of the copepods (an extremely diverse group of small crustaceans) are new. A number of new Loricifera species have also been identified. These are very small invertebrates which, although are now known to be speciose, were for a long-time overlooked with the phylum described only in 1983.

In addition to yielding new species and confirming the diversity of deep sea life, the material collected is helping clarify aspects of the life cycles of these organisms and will provide new information on the species distributions.

At first sight, the abyssal plains look relatively uniform, but DIVAs closer examination is revealing large differences in the structure of the sediments and the composition of the fauna. We are finding that different groups dominate at different sites and that several species are very rare, with only one specimen collected during the entire expedition, said Wgele. The rare species are, for example, from the genera Acanthasp

Contact: Dr. Gina Adams
International Biodiversity Observation Year

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