, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 575-586

Case studies on decapod crustaceans from the Philippines reveal deep, steep underwater slopes as prime habitats for ‘rare’ species

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Abstract

Relatively few studies have been done to define or assess rarity in the marine environment. Published studies have focused on shallow-water and intertidal habitats, and the available information appears to reflect the same pattern observed in terrestrial environments, i.e., that there are many rare species and few common species in any one given area. However, our studies of the abundance of new and/or supposedly rare taxa of decapod crustaceans from the deep, steep slopes of the island of Balicasag, in the central Philippines, have raised questions on how rarity should be defined in marine invertebrates. Examples of such supposedly rare species of crabs and lobsters (Crustacea: Decapoda) are presented here. That these animals come from deep, steep slopes, a relatively under-studied habitat, highlights the major gaps in current knowledge of marine biodiversity that are in part due to the inadequacy of both traditional and high technology sampling methodologies and the limited habitat types that the former can target. Low-technology, artisanal tangle nets have proved to be an optimal capture technique for deep-water decapod crustaceans on deep, steep slopes; many new taxa have been discovered and, in other cases, perceptions of rarity and endemicity have been corrected.