Original Article

Helgoland Marine Research

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 103-116

Sublittoral soft bottom communities and diversity of Mejillones Bay in northern Chile (Humboldt Current upwelling system)

  • Jürgen LaudienAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research Email author 
  • , Manuel E. RojoAffiliated withFacultad de Recursos del Mar, Universidad de Antofagasta
  • , Marcelo E. OlivaAffiliated withFacultad de Recursos del Mar, Universidad de Antofagasta
  • , Wolf E. ArntzAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  • , Sven ThatjeAffiliated withNational Oceanography Centre, Southampton, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton

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The macrozoobenthos of Mejillones Bay (23°S; Humboldt Current) was quantitatively investigated over a 7-year period from austral summer 1995/1996 to winter 2002. About 78 van Veen grab samples taken at six stations (5, 10, 20 m depth) provided the basis for the analysis of the distribution of 60 species and 28 families of benthic invertebrates, as well as of their abundance and biomass. Mean abundance (2,119 individuals m−2) was in the same order compared to a previous investigation; mean biomass (966 g formalin wet mass m−2), however, exceeded prior estimations mainly due to the dominance of the bivalve Aulacomya ater. About 43% of the taxa inhabited the complete depth range. Mean taxonomic Shannon diversity (H′, Log e) was 1.54 ± 0.58 with a maximum at 20 m (1.95 ± 0.33); evenness increased with depth. The fauna was numerically dominated by carnivorous gastropods, polychaetes and crustaceans (48%). About 15% of the species were suspensivorous, 13% sedimentivorous, 11% detritivorous, 7% omnivorous and 6% herbivorous. Cluster analyses showed a significant difference between the shallow and the deeper stations. Gammarid amphipods and the polychaete family Nephtyidae characterized the 5-m-zone, the molluscs Aulacomya ater, Mitrella unifasciata and gammarids the intermediate zone, while the gastropod Nassarius gayi and the polychaete family Nereidae were most prominent at the deeper stations. The communities of the three depth zones did not appear to be limited by hypoxia during non-El Niño conditions. Therefore, no typical change in community structure occurred during El Niño 1997–1998, in contrast to what was observed for deeper faunal assemblages and hypoxic bays elsewhere in the coastal Humboldt Current system.


Macrozoobenthos Community analyses Feeding modes Mejillones Bay El Niño