, Volume 167, Issue 1, pp 143–149 | Cite as

Response of harpacticoid copepods to habitat structure at a deep-sea site

  • David Thistle
  • James E. Eckman
Part Three: Oceanic and Deep-Se Copepods


Given the quiescent physical environment and the low rates of bioturbation in the deep sea, biologically produced structures, such as animals tubes, may play an important role in creating habitat heterogeneity. In San Diego Trough, the cirratulid polychaete Tharyx luticastellus builds and inhabits a robust mud concretion (a mudball). Mudballs are abundant and persist after the worm has died or abandoned them. Our analysis of twelve 6.6-cm-diameter cores from 32° 51.02′ N, 117° 46.97′ W, taken with the submersible SEA CLIFF, indicate that one of 29 species of harpacticoids common in San Diego Trough is associated with Tharyx mudballs. This species (of the genus Heteropsyllus) responded only to mudballs containing worms, suggesting that any effects of the inanimate structure were not the cause of the association. We could detect no difference in bacterial numbers in sediments between control and occupied-mudball samples. This result suggests that the response does not result from gross differences in food levels near a mudball, but the possibility that there are differences in some preferred food cannot be discounted. An univestigated possibility is that Heteropsyllus responds to occupied mudballs because the worm's presence deters some (presumably small) predator.

Key words

deep-sea benthos harpacticoid copepods habitat structure Tharyx Heteropsyllus 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Thistle
    • 1
  • James E. Eckman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Skidaway Institute of OceanographySavannahUSA

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