Spatial distribution and habitat preferences of demersal fish assemblages in the southeastern Weddell Sea (Southern Ocean)

dieter.piepenburg [ at ]


Our knowledge on distribution, habitats and behavior of Southern Ocean fishes living at water depths beyond scuba-diving limits is still sparse, as it is difficult to obtain quantitative data on these aspects of their biology. Here, we report the results of an analysis of seabed images to investigate species composition, behavior, spatial distribution and preferred habitats of demersal fish assemblages in the southern Weddell Sea. Our study was based on a total of 2736 high-resolution images, covering a total seabed area of 11,317 m2, which were taken at 13 stations at water depths between 200 and 750 m. Fish were found in 380 images. A total of 379 notothenioid specimens were recorded, representing four families (Nototheniidae, Artedidraconidae, Bathydraconidae, Channichthyidae), 17 genera and 25 species. Nototheniidae was the most speciose fam- ily, including benthic species (Trematomus spp.) and the pelagic species Pleuragramma antarctica, which was occasionally recorded in dense shoals. Bathydraconids ranked second with six species, followed by artedidraconids and channichthyids, both with five species. Most abundant species were Trematomus scotti and T. lepidorhinus among nototheniids, and Dol- loidraco longedorsalis and Pagetopsis maculatus among artedidraconids and channichthyids, respectively. Both T. lepi- dorhinus and P. maculatus preferred seabed habitats characterized by biogenous debris and rich epibenthic fauna, whereas T. scotti and D. longedorsalis were frequently seen resting on fine sediments and scattered gravel. Several fish species were recorded to make use of the three-dimensional structure formed by epibenthic foundation species, like sponges, for perching or hiding inside. Nesting behavior was observed, frequently in association with dropstones, in species from various families, including Channichthyidae (Chaenodraco wilsoni and Pagetopsis macropterus) and Bathydraconidae (Cygnodraco mawsoni).

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DOI 10.1007/s00300-019-02495-3

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La Mesa, M. , Piepenburg, D. , Pineda-Metz, S. E. A. , Riginella, E. and Eastman, J. T. (2019): Spatial distribution and habitat preferences of demersal fish assemblages in the southeastern Weddell Sea (Southern Ocean) , Polar Biology . doi: 10.1007/s00300-019-02495-3

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