, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 69-81

Biodiversity and distribution of the genus Gromia (Protista, Rhizaria) in the deep Weddell Sea (Southern Ocean)

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Abstract

We present a survey of morphospecies of Gromia, a genus of testate protists, from bathyal and abyssal depths in the Weddell Sea and adjacent areas of the Southern Ocean. This material represents the most extensive and diverse available collection of deep-sea gromiids so far recorded. The twelve species, nine of which are undescribed, are recognized on the basis of morphological criteria, including the test size and shape, the appearance and structure of the oral capsule, and the characteristics of the test wall. Most species have a single oral capsule, which is circular in plan view with a conical nipple-like shape in lateral view. One morphospecies has three oral capsules. The appearance and structure of the wall displays great variability among Gromia species, ranging from very delicate and transparent with highly reflective highlights to relatively thick with distinct patterns of ridges covering the surface. More often, however, differences in wall structure are more subtle. Most morphospecies were distributed at bathyal depths along the continental margin, but one was sampled at ~4,800 m, representing the first record of an abyssal gromiid. Concurrent with findings from other regions of the World’s oceans, the Weddell Sea gromiids were mostly found in surficial sediments in areas of elevated organic input, suggesting that deep-sea gromiids are likely to play an important role in carbon cycling in bathyal eutrophic regions through the ingestion and degradation of fresh organic matter.