The Museum’s vast collections of vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and microbes support our staff's unique expertise in evolutionary biology, biodiversity and systematics.

Recent Submissions

  • Evolutionary history of the Galápagos Rail revealed by ancient mitogenomes and modern samples

    Chaves, Jaime A; Martinez-Torres, Pedro J; Depino, Emiliano A; Espinoza-Ulloa, Sebastian; García-Loor, Jefferson; Beichman, Annabel; Stervander, Martin (MDPI, 2020-11-12)
    The biotas of the Galápagos Islands are one of the best studied island systems and have provided a broad model for insular species’ origins and evolution. Nevertheless, some locally endemic taxa, such as the Galápagos Rail Laterallus spilonota, remain poorly characterized. Owing to its elusive behavior, cryptic plumage, and restricted distribution, the Galápagos Rail is one of the least studied endemic vertebrates of the Galapagos Islands. To date, there is no genetic data for this species, leaving its origins, relationships to other taxa, and levels of genetic diversity uncharacterized. This lack of information is critical given the adverse fate of island rail species around the world in the recent past. Here, we examine the genetics of Galápagos Rails using a combination of mitogenome de novo assembly with multilocus nuclear and mitochondrial sequencing from both modern and historical samples. We show that the Galápagos Rail is part of the “American black rail clade”, sister to the Black Rail L. jamaicensis, with a colonization of Galápagos dated to 1.2 million years ago. A separate analysis of one nuclear and two mitochondrial markers in the larger population samples demonstrates a shallow population structure across the islands, possibly due to elevated island connectivity. Additionally, birds from the island Pinta possessed the lowest levels of genetic diversity, possibly reflecting past population bottlenecks associated with overgrazing of their habitat by invasive goats. The modern and historical data presented here highlight the low genetic diversity in this endemic rail species and provide useful information to guide conservation efforts.
  • A proposed solution to a lengthy dispute: what is Leptinaria (uni)lamellata (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Achatinidae)?

    Breure, ASH; Ablett, J; Audibert, C (Cernuelle, 2020-11-01)
    The taxonomic position and the publication dates of both Achatina lamellata Potiez & Michaud, 1835 and Helix unilamellata d’Orbigny, 1835 are discussed. The dispute concerning the correct publication date of Potiez & Michaud is analysed and a collation of their Atlas is compared to the sheets of their main text, leading to the most likely scenario that the name Achatina lamellata became available in October 1838. The discovery of material ex auctore of this taxon enables us to establish it as a junior synonym of d’Orbigny’s taxon, which was published in March 1838. The correct name is thus Leptinaria unilamellata (d’Orbigny, 1838).
  • Synthetic and semi-synthetic fibre ingestion by mesopelagic fishes from Tristan da Cuhna and St Helena, South Atlantic

    McGoran, Alexandra; Maclaine, James; Clark, Paul; Morritt, David (2020-11)
    As part of the Blue Belt Programme, a marine survey of British Overseas Territories funded by the UK Government, RRS Discovery trawled at depths of between the surface and 1000m around Tristan da Cuhna and St Helena. Fishes were examined for microplastic ingestion. This work was supported by the National Environmental Research Council [grant number NE/L002485/1] with co-sponsorship from a Fishmongers' Company Fisheries Charity Trust CASE Partnership. Specimens were collected onboard RRS Discover as part of the Blue Belt Programme, which is funded by the UK Government in collaboration with CEFAS and BAS.
  • Extended Pelagic Life in a Bathybenthic Octopus

    Villanueva, Roger; Laptikhovsky, Vladimir V; Piertney, Stuart B; Fernández-Álvarez, Fernando Ángel; Collins, Martin A; Ablett, J; Escánez, Alejandro (Frontiers Media SA, 2020-11-20)
    Planktonic stages of benthic octopuses can reach relatively large sizes in some species, usually in oceanic, epipelagic waters while living as part of the macroplankton. These young octopuses appear to delay settlement on the seabed for an undetermined period of time that is probably longer than for those octopus paralarvae living in coastal, neritic waters. The reason for this delay is unknown and existing information about their biology is very scarce. Here we report on the presence of juvenile and subadult forms of the bathybenthic octopus Pteroctopus tetracirrhus in oceanic waters of the South and North Atlantic and its association with the pyrosomid species Pyrosoma atlanticum, apparently used by the octopus as a refuge or shelter. The relatively large size of the P. tetracirrhus living in oceanic waters as the individuals reported here, together with the morphological characteristics of this bathybenthic species including its gelatinous body, minute suckers embedded in swollen skin and the deep interbrachial web, indicates that P. tetracirrhus may be considered a model of a transitional octopus species that is colonizing the pelagic environment by avoiding descending to the bathyal benthos. This process seems to occur in the same way as in the supposed origin of the ctenoglossan holopelagic octopods of the families Amphitretidae, Bolitaenidae, and Vitreledonellidae, which have arisen via neoteny from the planktonic paralarval stages of benthic octopuses.
  • The first next-generation sequencing approach to the mitochondrial phylogeny of African monogenean parasites (Platyhelminthes: Gyrodactylidae and Dactylogyridae)

    Vanhove, Maarten PM; Briscoe, Andrew G; Jorissen, Michiel WP; Littlewood, T; Huyse, Tine (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2018-07-04)
    BACKGROUND:Monogenean flatworms are the main ectoparasites of fishes. Representatives of the species-rich families Gyrodactylidae and Dactylogyridae, especially those infecting cichlid fishes and clariid catfishes, are important parasites in African aquaculture, even more so due to the massive anthropogenic translocation of their hosts worldwide. Several questions on their evolution, such as the phylogenetic position of Macrogyrodactylus and the highly speciose Gyrodactylus, remain unresolved with available molecular markers. Also, diagnostics and population-level research would benefit from the development of higher-resolution genetic markers. We aim to offer genetic resources for work on African monogeneans by providing mitogenomic data of four species (two belonging to Gyrodactylidae, two to Dactylogyridae), and analysing their gene sequences and gene order from a phylogenetic perspective. RESULTS:Using Illumina technology, the first four mitochondrial genomes of African monogeneans were assembled and annotated for the cichlid parasites Gyrodactylus nyanzae, Cichlidogyrus halli, Cichlidogyrus mbirizei (near-complete mitogenome) and the catfish parasite Macrogyrodactylus karibae (near-complete mitogenome). Complete nuclear ribosomal operons were also retrieved, as molecular vouchers. The start codon TTG is new for Gyrodactylus and for Dactylogyridae, as is the incomplete stop codon TA for Dactylogyridae. Especially the nad2 gene is promising for primer development. Gene order was identical for protein-coding genes and differed between the African representatives of these families only in a tRNA gene transposition. A mitochondrial phylogeny based on an alignment of nearly 12,500 bp including 12 protein-coding and two ribosomal RNA genes confirms that the Neotropical oviparous Aglaiogyrodactylus forficulatus takes a sister group position with respect to the other gyrodactylids, instead of the supposedly 'primitive' African Macrogyrodactylus. Inclusion of the African Gyrodactylus nyanzae confirms the paraphyly of Gyrodactylus. The position of the African dactylogyrid Cichlidogyrus is unresolved, although gene order suggests it is closely related to marine ancyrocephalines. CONCLUSIONS:The amount of mitogenomic data available for gyrodactylids and dactylogyrids is increased by roughly one-third. Our study underscores the potential of mitochondrial genes and gene order in flatworm phylogenetics, and of next-generation sequencing for marker development for these non-model helminths for which few primers are available.
  • The Genomic Footprints of the Fall and Recovery of the Crested Ibis

    Feng, Shaohong; Fang, Qi; Barnett, Ross; Li, Cai; Han, Sojung; Kuhlwilm, Martin; Zhou, Long; Pan, Hailin; Deng, Yuan; Chen, Guangji; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2019-01-10)
    Human-induced environmental change and habitat fragmentation pose major threats to biodiversity and require active conservation efforts to mitigate their consequences. Genetic rescue through translocation and the introduction of variation into imperiled populations has been argued as a powerful means to preserve, or even increase, the genetic diversity and evolutionary potential of endangered species [1-4]. However, factors such as outbreeding depression [5, 6] and a reduction in available genetic diversity render the success of such approaches uncertain. An improved evaluation of the consequence of genetic restoration requires knowledge of temporal changes to genetic diversity before and after the advent of management programs. To provide such information, a growing number of studies have included small numbers of genomic loci extracted from historic and even ancient specimens [7, 8]. We extend this approach to its natural conclusion, by characterizing the complete genomic sequences of modern and historic population samples of the crested ibis (Nipponia nippon), an endangered bird that is perhaps the most successful example of how conservation effort has brought a species back from the brink of extinction. Though its once tiny population has today recovered to >2,000 individuals [9], this process was accompanied by almost half of ancestral loss of genetic variation and high deleterious mutation load. We furthermore show how genetic drift coupled to inbreeding following the population bottleneck has largely purged the ancient polymorphisms from the current population. In conclusion, we demonstrate the unique promise of exploiting genomic information held within museum samples for conservation and ecological research.
  • Metabarcoding unsorted kick‐samples facilitates macroinvertebrate‐based biomonitoring with increased taxonomic resolution, while outperforming environmental DNA

    Pereira-da-Conceicoa, Lyndall; Elbrecht, V; Hall, Andie; Briscoe, AG; Barber‐James, H; Price, BW (Wiley, 2020-07-21)
    Pereira‐da‐Conceicoa, L, Elbrecht, V, Hall, A, Briscoe, A, Barber‐James, H, Price, B. Metabarcoding unsorted kick‐samples facilitates macroinvertebrate‐based biomonitoring with increased taxonomic resolution, while outperforming environmental DNA. Environmental DNA. 2020; 00: 1– 19. https://doi.org/10.1002/edn3.116
  • Ahead of the curve: three approaches to mass digitisation of vials with a focus on label data capture

    Dupont, Steen; Humphries, Josh; Butcher, Alice Jenny; Baker, E; Balcells, L; Price, BW (Pensoft Publishers, 2020-04-27)
    There has been little research on novel approaches to digitising liquid-preserved natural history specimens stored in jars or vials. This paper discusses and analyses three different prototypes for high-throughput digitisation using cheap, readily available components. This paper has been written for other digitisation teams or curators who want to trial or improve upon these new digitisation approaches in liquid preserved collections.
  • An urban Blitz with a twist: rapid biodiversity assessment using aquatic environmental DNA

    Hupało, K; Majaneva, M; Czachur, MV; Sire, L; Marquina, D; Lijtmaer, DA; Ivanov, V; Leidenberger, S; Čiampor, F; Čiamporová‐Zaťovičová, Z; et al. (Wiley, 2020-10-24)
    As global biodiversity declines, there is an increasing need to create an educated and engaged society. Having people of all ages participate in measuring biodiversity where they live helps to create awareness. Recently, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for biodiversity surveys has gained momentum. Here, we explore whether sampling eDNA and sequencing it can be used as a means of rapidly surveying urban biodiversity for educational purposes. We sampled 2 × 1 L of water from each of 15 locations in the city of Trondheim, Norway, including a variety of freshwater, marine, and brackish habitats. DNA was extracted, amplified in triplicate targeting the barcoding fragment of COI gene, and sequenced. The obtained data were analyzed on the novel mBRAVE platform, an online open‐access software and computing resource. The water samples were collected in 2 days by two people, and the laboratory analysis was completed in 5 days by one person. Overall, we detected the presence of 506 BINs identified as belonging to 435 taxa, representing at least 265 putative species. On average, only 5.4% of the taxa were shared among six replicates per site. Based on the observed diversity, three distinct clusters were detected and related to the geographic distribution of sites. There were some taxa shared between the habitats, with a substantial presence of terrestrial biota. Here we propose a new form of BioBlitz, where with noninvasive sampling effort combined with swift processing and straightforward online analyses, hundreds of species can be detected. Thus, using eDNA analysis of water is useful for rapid biodiversity surveys and valuable for educational purposes. We show that rapid eDNA surveys, combined with openly available services and software, can be used as an educational tool to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity.
  • Conservation challenges for a microscopic world: Documenting desmids

    Wilbraham, Joanna (British Phycological Society, 2020)
    Freshwaters are amongst the most threatened habitats in the world. Many waters in the UK have irreversibly changed or disappeared and those that remain are under immense pressure largely due to habitat loss, pollution, recreation, abstraction and the introduction of nonnative species. Climate change is also becoming a major concern for freshwater life. The conservation of biodiversity associated with freshwaters has for obvious reasons focused on the larger animal and plant species, however, microorganisms such as the algae play a fundamental role in these ecosystems and constitute rich assemblages which are also threatened. Desmids are a diverse group of freshwater microalgae which dominate the algal flora of nutrient poor, lentic waters and are particularly diverse in such oligotrophic habitats as moorland pools and shallow lakes. They are ecologically highly sensitive, acting as useful indicators of water quality. The conservation of microscopic organisms poses many difficulties due to taxonomic impediments and lack of knowledge of ecology and distribution. To gain a better understanding of desmid distribution patterns across the UK and Ireland this project has undertaken the digitisation of 50 years worth of biological recording data collated by desmid expert David Williamson. Reliable datasets of species occurrence are essential to biodiversity research and conservation so these data, in conjunction with published literature, will provide a basis for developing a more robust checklist of verified desmid taxa known to occur in the UK and Ireland and provide distribution information for these taxa. Furthermore, this will enable us to review the conservation status of the desmid flora and provide data of practical use in the designation and management of protected freshwater habitats.
  • Disparities in the analysis of morphological disparity

    Guillerme, T; Cooper, N; Brusatte, SL; Davis, KE; Jackson, AL; Gerber, S; Goswami, A; Healy, K; Hopkins, MJ; Jones, MEH; et al. (The Royal Society, 2020-07-01)
    Analyses of morphological disparity have been used to characterize and investigate the evolution of variation in the anatomy, function and ecology of organisms since the 1980s. While a diversity of methods have been employed, it is unclear whether they provide equivalent insights. Here, we review the most commonly used approaches for characterizing and analysing morphological disparity, all of which have associated limitations that, if ignored, can lead to misinterpretation. We propose best practice guidelines for disparity analyses, while noting that there can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. The available tools should always be used in the context of a specific biological question that will determine data and method selection at every stage of the analysis.
  • Ineffectiveness of light emitting diodes as underwater deterrents for Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis

    Cantlay, JC; Bond, AL; Wells-Berlin, AM; Crawford, R; Martin, GR; Rouxel, Y; Peregoy, S; McGrew, KA; Portugal, SJ (Elsevier BV, 2020-09-01)
    Gillnet bycatch accounts for over 400,000 bird mortalities worldwide every year, affectinga wide variety of species, especially those birds that dive when foraging. Technologicalsolutions to improve gillnet visibility or deter birds from approaching nets, such as LEDlights, are essential for aiding diving birds to perceive nets as a hazard. Designing suchsolutions requires obtaining visual and behavioural ecology information from species toassess their ability to see the warning devices, and to examine their behavioural responsesto them. Seaducks, particularly Long-tailed DucksClangula hyemalis,have high bycatchmortality rates. We examined the visualfields of four Long-tailed Ducks to understandtheir three-dimensional view around the head. The visualfield characteristics of thisspecies indicate a reliance on visual guidance for foraging associated with their capture ofvaried, mobile prey in their generalist diet. We subsequently conducted dive tank trials totest the effectiveness of 12 different LED treatments as visual deterrents to the underwaterforaging behaviour of 8 Long-tailed Ducks. During each trial, ducks were offered foodrewards from a specific underwater location in a dive tank, having the choice of whether totake the food or not. At the same time, they were exposed to either one LED light or thecontrol (no light) to determine whether the presence of each light affected the foragingsuccess rate of dives compared to the control. Exposure of ducks to all 13 treatmentcombinations was randomised over the trial period. White lights with an increasingflashrate were shown to have a significant positive effect on foraging success, and likely acted asa visual attractant, rather than as a deterrent. No light treatment significantly reduced theforaging success of ducks. LED lights did not inhibit the feeding of Long-tailed Ducks. Suchlights may be ineffective as underwater visual deterrents when deployed on gillnets, whilewhiteflashing lights may make foraging sites more attractive to Long-tailed Ducks.
  • A revision of the Maechidiini Burmeister, 1855 (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Melolonthinae) from the Indo-Australian transition zone, and the first record of the tribe west of Wallace’s Line

    Telnov, Dmitry (2020-10-19)
    Features of the Maechidiini (Scarabaeidae: Melolonthinae) genera Maechidius Macleay, 1819, Epholcis Waterhouse, 1875 and Paramaechidius Frey, 1969 are critically revised and a new synonymy is proposed: Maechidius = Epholcis syn. nov. = Paramaechidius syn. nov. A key to and an annotated checklist of Maechidiini from the Indo-Australian transition zone are presented for the first time. Thirty-five new species are described, namely Maechidius aiyura sp. nov., M. alesbezdeki sp. nov., M. awu sp. nov., M. babyrousa sp. nov., M. bintang sp. nov., M. boessnecki sp. nov., M. brocki sp. nov., M. caperatus sp. nov., M. ciliatus sp. nov., M. crypticus sp. nov., M. dani sp. nov., M. deltouri sp. nov., M. dendrolagus sp. nov., M. hamatus sp. nov., M. kazantsevi sp. nov., M. konjo sp. nov., M. lapsus sp. nov., M. legalovi sp. nov., M. leucopsar sp. nov., M. longipes sp. nov., M. mailu sp. nov., M. maleo sp. nov., M. merdeka sp. nov., M. miklouhomaclayi sp. nov., M. nepenthephilus sp. nov., M. owenstanleyi sp. nov., M. riedeli sp. nov., M. similis sp. nov., M. skalei sp. nov., M. sougb sp. nov., M. suwawa sp. nov., M. trivialis sp. nov., M. ursus sp. nov., M. weigeli sp. nov. and M. yamdena sp. nov. Six new synonyms are proposed: Maechidius Macleay, 1819 = Epholcis Waterhouse, 1875 syn. nov. = Paramaechidius Frey, 1969 syn. nov., Maechidius esau Heller, 1914 = M. setosus Moser, 1920 syn. nov. = M. setosellus Frey, 1969 syn. nov., Maechidius heterosquamosus Heller, 1910 comb. rest. = Paramaechidius clypeatus Frey, 1969 syn. nov. and Maechidius paupianus Heller, 1910 = M. arrowi Frey, 1969 syn. nov. The first records of Maechidiini from the Tanimbar Islands (Yamdena), Sangihe Islands (Sangir) and Lesser Sunda Islands (Bali) are documented, of which the latter two are the northern- and westernmost known records of Maechidius and of the tribe Maechidiini. Lectotypes are designated for 23 species. Fifteen new combinations are proposed and the original combination to Maechidius is restored for four species. Ecological data are presented for the first time for selected Papuan and Wallacean species. Type material of Wallacean and Papuan Maechidiini is depicted for the first time. A key to species is given. In total, 78 species of Maechidiini are confirmed for the Indo-Australian transition zone.
  • Evaluation of DNA barcode libraries used in the UK and developing an action plan to fill priority gaps

    Price, BW; Briscoe, AG; Misra, Raju; Broad, G (Natural England, 2020-10)
    There are approximately 76,000 eukaryote species recognised in the UK, and while we know some of them in great detail, the majority of these species are poorly known, and hundreds of new species are discovered each year. DNA barcoding uses a short, standardised segment of an organism’s genome for identification by comparison to a reference library; however, the UK lags behind several countries in Europe and North America in that we lack trusted, reliable and openly accessible reference sequences for key UK taxa. This report is the first step in rectifying this by engaging diverse stakeholders to facilitate collaboration and coordination; providing robust stakeholder-based and independent assessment of the current state of reference libraries available for all known UK taxa; and prioritising key taxa. A survey was developed and shared with the UK research and end user community, receiving 80 responses from a wide range of stakeholders and covering the focal taxa / assemblages and habitats; the DNA reference libraries in use, their quality assurance and perceived coverage. A formal gap analysis of the public DNA data in major DNA reference libraries highlighted that an estimated 52% of UK species have publicly available DNA data of some sort; however, coverage in gene specific reference libraries varies greatly (eg 2 – 52%), as does the associated quality assurance. Priority taxa highlighted by end users had coverage in reference libraries ranging from almost complete, in the case of known invasive non-native species, to significant coverage (71%) for taxa with conservation designations. However, these data also vary by kingdom and reference library, as does the associated quality assurance. If taking a strict requirement of DNA data provided by UK specimens and held in UK repositories, for robust QC and QA, then the proportion of UK species with public DNA data in reference libraries falls to less than 4% in the largest reference library assessed (BOLD). While standard genes for DNA-based identification have essentially been established, more work is required to establish the priority taxa required for regulatory delivery in contrast to taxa that are surveyed in a non-regulatory framework. Several barriers to the development of barcode libraries were highlighted, the most relevant being sustained large scale funding, expertise, capacity, laboratory skills and equipment, quality control and assurance, collecting logistics (eg permits and access) and communication. Significant opportunities identified include a large network of interested experts, several organisations with significant delivery capabilities, current large-scale projects and funding opportunities, emerging technologies and the economy of scale for DNA sequencing. Following a stakeholder workshop, we have outlined a concise action plan to provide reliable, open access reference sequences, linked to open access vouchers, identified by known experts, to facilitate UK academic and regulatory aims.
  • Climatic oscillations in Quaternary have shaped the co‑evolutionary patterns between the Norway spruce and its host‑associated herbivore

    Jakub, G; Andrzej, O; Robert, R; Igor, C; Katarzyna, M; Radosław, P; Matti, L; Mauro, G; Gernot, H; Vytautas, T; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-10-05)
    During the Last Glacial Maximum in the Northern Hemisphere, expanding ice sheets forced a large number of plants, including trees, to retreat from their primary distribution areas. Many host-associated herbivores migrated along with their host plants. Long-lasting geographic isolation between glacial refugia could have been led to the allopatric speciation in separated populations. Here, we have studied whether the migration history of the Norway spruce Picea abies in Quaternary has affected its host-associated herbivorous beetle—Monochamus sartor. By using microsatellite markers accompanied by the geometric morphometrics analysis of wing venation, we have revealed the clear geographic structure of M. sartor in Eurasia, encompassing two main clusters: southern (Alpine–Carpathian) and eastern (including northeastern Europe and Asia), which reflects the northern and southern ecotypes of its host. The two beetles’ lineages probably diverged during the Pleniglacial (57,000—15,000 BC) when their host tree species was undergoing significant range fragmentation and experienced secondary contact during post-glacial recolonization of spruce in the Holocene. A secondary contact of divergent lineages of M. sartor has resulted in the formation of the hybrid zone in northeastern Europe. Our findings suggest that the climatic oscillations during the Pleistocene have driven an insect-plant co-evolutionary process, and have contributed to the formation of the unique biodiversity of Europe.
  • Observations of organic falls from the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean

    Amon, Diva; Hilario, A; Arbizu, PM; Smith, CR (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2016-10-04)
    Organic falls can form nutrient-rich, ephemeral hotspots of productivity and biodiversity at the deep-sea floor, especially in food-poor abyssal plains. We report here the first wood falls and second carcass fall recorded from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, an area that could be mined for polymetallic nodules in the future. A small cetacean fall in the mobile-scavenger stage likely recently arrived on the seafloor was observed, whereas most of the wood falls were highly degraded. There were multiple species in attendance at the wood falls including organic-fall specialists such as Xylophagaidae molluscs. Many of the taxa attending the carcass fall were known mobile scavengers that regularly attend bait parcels in the Pacific Ocean. These results further confirm that wood falls can occur at large distances (>1450 km) from major land masses, providing an adequate supply of wood to the abyssal seafloor for colonization by wood-boring molluscs and associated fauna. Organic falls may be regionally abundant and are likely to influence species and habitat diversity in the abyssal areas of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.
  • Exploration of the Mid-Cayman Rise

    German, CR; Tyler, PA; McIntyre, C; Amon, Diva; Cheadle, M; Clarke, J; John, B; McDermott, JM; Bennett, SA; Huber, JA; et al. (The Oceanography Society, 2012)
  • Insights into the abundance and diversity of abyssal megafauna in a polymetallic-nodule region in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone

    Amon, Diva; Ziegler, AF; Dahlgren, TG; Glover, AG; Goineau, A; Gooday, AJ; Wiklund, H; Smith, CR (Springer, 2016-07-29)
    There is growing interest in mining polymetallic nodules in the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific. Nonetheless, benthic communities in this region remain poorly known. The ABYSSLINE Project is conducting benthic biological baseline surveys for the UK Seabed Resources Ltd. exploration contract area (UK-1) in the CCZ. Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle, we surveyed megafauna at four sites within a 900 km2 stratum in the UK-1 contract area, and at a site ~250 km east of the UK-1 area, allowing us to make the first estimates of abundance and diversity. We distinguished 170 morphotypes within the UK-1 contract area but species-richness estimators suggest this could be as high as 229. Megafaunal abundance averaged 1.48 ind. m−2. Seven of 12 collected metazoan species were new to science, and four belonged to new genera. Approximately half of the morphotypes occurred only on polymetallic nodules. There were weak, but statistically significant, positive correlations between megafaunal and nodule abundance. Eastern-CCZ megafaunal diversity is high relative to two abyssal datasets from other regions, however comparisons with CCZ and DISCOL datasets are problematic given the lack of standardised methods and taxonomy. We postulate that CCZ megafaunal diversity is driven in part by habitat heterogeneity.
  • Megafauna of the UKSRL exploration contract area and eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean: Echinodermata

    Amon, Diva; Ziegler, AF; Kremenetskaia, A; Mah, CL; Mooi, R; O Hara, T; Pawson, DL; Roux, M; Smith, CR (Pensoft Publishers, 2017-05-11)
    Background: There is growing interest in mining polymetallic nodules from the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Despite being the focus of environmental studies for decades, the benthic megafauna of the CCZ remain poorly known. In order to predict and manage the environmental impacts of mining in the CCZ, baseline knowledge of the megafauna is essential. The ABYSSLINE Project has conducted benthic biological baseline surveys in the UK Seabed Resources Ltd polymetallic-nodule exploration contract area (UK-1). Prior to these research cruises in 2013 and 2015, no biological studies had been done in this area of the eastern CCZ. New information: Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, the megafauna within the UKSRL exploration contract area (UK-1) and at a site ~250 km east of the UK-1 area were surveyed, allowing us to make the first estimates of megafaunal morphospecies richness from the imagery collected. Here, we present an atlas of the abyssal echinoderm megafauna observed and collected during the ABYSSLINE cruises to the UK-1 polymetallic-nodule exploration contract area in the CCZ. There appear to be at least 62 distinct morphospecies (13 Asteroidea, 5 Crinoidea, 9 Echinoidea, 29 Holothuroidea and 6 Ophiuroidea) identified mostly by imagery but also using molecular barcoding for a limited number of animals that were collected. This atlas will aid the synthesis of megafaunal presence/absence data collected by contractors, scientists and other stakeholders undertaking work in the CCZ, ultimately helping to decipher the biogeography of the megafauna in this threatened habitat.

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