, Volume 149, Issue 6, pp 1463-1475
Date: 20 May 2006

Seamount endemism questioned by the geographic distribution and population genetic structure of marine invertebrates

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Previous studies have suggested that the high diversity associated with the Norfolk seamounts (Southwest Pacific) could reflect endemism resulting from limited dispersal due to hydrological phenomena. Crustaceans of the family Galatheidae are thoroughly studied in the New Caledonia economic zone permitting the analysis of species distribution pattern between the New Caledonia slope and Norfolk ridge seamounts. This analysis has shown that, qualitatively, the same species are sampled on seamounts and on the New Caledonia slope. Local endemism was never detected. However, on each seamount, and therefore on a small surface, a very high number of species are usually sampled, suggesting that seamounts are biodiversity hot spots. Then, to evaluate whether the seamounts constitute patches of isolated habitat, we explore the pattern of genetic diversity within several species of crustaceans and gastropods. Analysis of the intra-specific genetic structure using the mitochondrial marker COI reveals that populations of two Galatheidae species (Munida thoe and Munida zebra), polymorphic for this marker, are genetically not structured, both among seamounts and between the seamounts and the island slope. The genetic structure over a similar sampling scheme of two Eumunida species (Chirostylidae, the sister family of Galatheidae) and a planktotrophic gastropod (Sassia remensa) reveals a similar pattern. Population structure is observed only in Nassaria problematica, a non-planktotrophic gastropod with limited larvae dispersal. Thus, the limitation of gene flow between seamounts appears to be observed only for species with limited dispersal abilities. Our results suggest that the Norfolk seamounts rather than functioning as areas of endemism, instead, may be highly productive zones that can support numerous species in small areas.