Marine Biology

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 69–81

Biomass of the invertebrate megabenthos from 500 to 4100 m in the northeast Atlantic Ocean

  • R. S. Lampitt
  • D. S. M. Billett
  • A. L. Rice


Data are presented on the biomass of the invertebrate megafauna at 22 stations on the continental slope in the Porcupine Seabight (PSB) (northeast Atlantic Ocean). Samples were collected between 1980 and 1982. Several units of biomass are used, all of which illustrate a decrease by a factor of about 30 from 500 to 4100 m. Lognormal curves were fitted to the data, the gradients of which were very similar for all biomass units and similar to the value for a transect down the continental slope in the western Atlantic. Biomass levels in the PSB are compared with those from other deep-sea environments. Some published values are more than ten times higher than the values reported here, while others are less than a tenth. The reasons for these differences and trends are discussed in terms of food supply. Sampling variability was examined at two stations, but by chance one (at 1300 m) appeared to encompass a sharp faunal discontinuity of the dominant fauna and the other (at 4000 m) contained very small numbers of large animals. For these reasons, sample variability was high at the repeat stations. Suspension-feeders and crustaceans dominated the biomass at upper-slope depths, while echinoderms were dominant on the middle and lower slope. As a result of this phyletic change, there was a small but insignificant decrease in mean body weight with increasing depth. Within phyla there was also a small but insignificant decrease with depth. If large species are excluded from the biomass/depth regression, the gradient changes considerably, demonstrating the increasing importance of small species at greater depths. The size distribution of megafaunal biomass was examined at several stations. This indicated that the megafauna form a functional group distinct from the macrofauna, just as the macrofauna are distinct from the meiofauna.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Aldred, R. G., M. H. Thurston, A. L. Rice and D. R. Morley: An acoustically monitored opening and closing epibenthic sledge. Deep-Sea Res. 23, 167–174 (1976)Google Scholar
  2. Billett, D. S. M. and B. Hansen: Abyssall aggregations of Kolga hyalina Danielssen and Koren (Echinodermata: Holothurioidea) in the northeast Atlantic Ocean: a preliminary report. Deep-Sea Res. 29 A, 799–818 (1982)Google Scholar
  3. Billett, D. S. M., R. S. Lampitt, A. L. Rice and R. F. C. Mantoura: Seasonal sedimentation of phytoplankton to the deep-sea benthos. Nature, Lond: 302, 520–522 (1983)Google Scholar
  4. Carey, A. G.: Food sources of sublittoral, bathyal and abyssal asteroids in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Ophelia 10, 35–47 (1972)Google Scholar
  5. Carey, A. G.: A comparison of benthic infaunal abundance on two abyssal plains in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Deep-Sea Res. 28 A, 467–479 (1981)Google Scholar
  6. Carney, R. S., R. L. Haedrich and G. T. Rowe: Zonation of fauna in the deep sea. In: The sea Vol. 8. Deep-sea biology, pp 371–398, Ed. by G. T. Rowe. John Wiley & Sons 1983Google Scholar
  7. Deuser, W. G., E. H. Ross and R. F. Anderson: Seasonality in the supply of sediment to the deep Sargossa Sea and implications for the rapid transfer of matter to the deep ocean. Deep-Sea Res. 28 A, 495–505 (1981)Google Scholar
  8. Gage, J. D.: Structure of the abyssal macrobenthic community in the Rockall Trough. In: Biology of benthic organisms, pp 247–260, Ed. by B. F. Keegan, P. O'Ceidigh and P. J. S. Boaden. Oxford: Pergamon Press 1977Google Scholar
  9. Haedrich, R. L. and G. T. Rowe: Megafaunal biomass in the deep sea. Nature, Lond. 269, 141–142 (1977)Google Scholar
  10. Haedrich, R. L., G. T. Rowe and P. T. Polloni: Zonation and faunal composition of epibenthic populations on the continental slope south of New England. J. mar. Res. 33, 191–212 (1975)Google Scholar
  11. Haedrich, R. L., G. T. Rowe and P. T. Polloni: The megabenthic fauna in the deep sea south of New England, USA. Mar. Biol. 57, 165–179 (1980)Google Scholar
  12. Hessler, R. R. and P. A. Jumars: Abyssal community analysis from replicate box cores in the central North Pacific. Deep-Sea Res. 21, 185–209 (1974)Google Scholar
  13. Honjo, S.: Seasonality and interaction of biogenic and lithogenic particulate flux at the Panama Basin. Science, N.Y. 218, 883–884 (1982)Google Scholar
  14. Khripounoff, A., D. Desbruyères et R. Chardy: Les peuplements benthiques de la faille Vema: données quantitatives et bilan d'énergie en milieu abyssal. Oceanol. Acta 3, 187–198 (1980)Google Scholar
  15. Koblentz-Mishke, O. J., V. V. Volkovinsky and J. G. Kabanova: Plankton primary production of the world oceans. In: Scientific exploration of the South Pacific, pp 183–193. Ed. by W. S. Wooster. Washington: National Academy of Science 1970Google Scholar
  16. Lampitt, R. S.: Evidence for the seasonal deposition of detritus to the deep-sea floor and its subsequent resuspension. Deep-Sea Res. 32, 885–897 (1985)Google Scholar
  17. Ohta, S.: Photographic census of large-sized benthic organisms in the bathyal zone of Suruga Bay, central Japan. Bull. Ocean Res. Inst. Univ. Tokyo 15, 1–244 (1983)Google Scholar
  18. Parsons, T. R., M. Takahashi and B. Hargarave: Biological oceanographic processes, 3rd ed. 330 pp. Oxford/New York: Pergamon Press 1984Google Scholar
  19. Pearcy, W. G., D. L. Stein and R. S. Carney: The deep-sea benthic fish fauna of the northeastern Pacific Ocean on Cascadia and Tufts abyssal plains and adjoining continental slopes. Biol. Oceanogr. (N.Y.) 1, 375–428 (1982)Google Scholar
  20. Pfannkuche, O., R. Theeg and H. Thiel: Benthos activity, abundance and biomass under an area of low upwelling off Morocco, Northwest Africa. Meteor ForschErgebn. 36, 85–96 (1983)Google Scholar
  21. Pfannkuche, O.: The deep-sea meiofauna of the Porcupine Seabight and abyssal plain (N. E. Atlantic). 1. Population structure, distribution pattern and standing stock. Oceanol. Acta 8, 343–353 (1985)Google Scholar
  22. Polloni, P. T., R. L. Haedrich, G. T. Rowe and C. H. Clifford: The size-depth relationship in deep-ocean animals. Int. Revue ges. Hydrobiol. 64, 39–46 (1979)Google Scholar
  23. Rex, M. A.: Zonation in deep-sea gastropods: the importance of biological interactions to rates of zonation. In: Biology of benthic organisms, pp 521–530. Ed. by B. F. Keegan, P. O'Ceidigh and P. J. S. Boaden. Oxford: Pergamon Press 1977Google Scholar
  24. Rice, A. L., R. G. Aldred E. Darlington and R. A. Wild: The quantitative estimation of the deep-sea megabenthos; a new approach to an old problem. Oceanol. Acta 5, 63–72 (1982)Google Scholar
  25. Rice, A. L., D. S. M. Billett, R. S. Lampitt, R. J. Morris, J. Fry, A. W. G. John and R. F. C. Mantoura: Seasonal deposition of phytodetritus to the deep-sea floor. Proc. R. Soc. Edinb. (In press)Google Scholar
  26. Rowe, G. T.: Benthic biomass and surface productivity. In: Fertility of the sea, Vol. 2, pp 441–454. Ed. by J. D. Costlow. New York: Gordon & Breach 1971Google Scholar
  27. Rowe, G. T. and W. D. Gardner: Sedimentation rates in the slope water of the northwest Atlantic Ocean measured directly with sediment traps. J. mar. Res. 37, 581–600 (1979)Google Scholar
  28. Rowe, G. T. and D. W. Menzel: Quantitative benthic samples from the deep Gulf of Mexico with some comments on the measurement of deep-sea biomass. Bull. mar. Sci. 21, 556–566 (1971)Google Scholar
  29. Rowe, G. T., P. T. Polloni and R. L. Haedrich: The deep-sea macrobenthos on the continental margin of the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Deep-Sea Res. 29 A, 257–278 (1982)Google Scholar
  30. Rutgers van der Loeff, M. M. and M. S. S. Lavaleye: Geochemical and biological research at the NEA dumpsite for low-level radioactive waste, 52 pp. Texel, Holland: Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee 1984. (Interim Rep. of the Dutch DORA Program; internal report)Google Scholar
  31. Schwinghamer, P.: Characteristic size distributions of intergral benthic communities. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sciences 38, 1255–1263 (1981)Google Scholar
  32. Sibuet, M. and J. M. Lawrence: Organic content and biomass of abyssal holothuroids (Echinodermata) from the Bay of Biscay. Mar. Biol. 65, 143–147 (1981)Google Scholar
  33. Sibuet, M., C. Monniot, D. Desbruyères, A. Dinet, A. Khripounoff, G. Rowe et M. Segonzac: Peuplements benthiques et caractéristiques trophiques du milieu dans la plaine abyssale Demerara. Oceanol. Acta 7, 345–358 (1984)Google Scholar
  34. Smith, C. R. and S. C. Hamilton: Epibenthic megafauna of a bathyal basin off southern California: patterns of abundance, biomass, and dispersion. Deep-Sea Res. 30 A, 907–928 (1983)Google Scholar
  35. Smith, K. L. Jr.: Metabolism of two dominant epibenthic echinoderms measured at bathyal depths in the Santa Catalina Basin. Mar. Biol. 72, 249–256 (1983)Google Scholar
  36. Snider, L. J., B. R. Burnett and R. R. Hessler: The composition and distribution of meiofauna and nanobiota in a central North Pacific deep-sea area. Deep-Sea Res. 31 A, 1225–1249 (1984)Google Scholar
  37. Suess, E.: Particulate organic carbon flux in the oceans — surface productivity and oxygen utilization. Nature, Lond. 288, 260–263 (1980)Google Scholar
  38. Thiel, H.: The size structure of the deep-sea benthos. Int. Revue ges. Hydrobiol. 60, 575–606 (1975)Google Scholar
  39. Thiel, H.: Structural aspects of the deep-sea benthos. Ambio spec. Rep. 6, 25–31 (1979)Google Scholar
  40. Turekian, K. K., J. K. Cochran, D. P. Kharkar, R. M. Cerrato, J. R. Vaisnys, H. L. Sanders, J. F. Grassle and J. A. Allen: Slow growth rate of a deep-sea clam determined by 228Ra chronology. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 72, 2829–2832 (1975)Google Scholar
  41. Warwick, R. M.: Species size distributions in marine benthic communities. Oecologia (Berl.) 61, 32–41 (1984)Google Scholar
  42. Weston, J. F.: Comparison between Recent benthic foraminiferal faunas of the Porcupine Seabight and Western Approaches Continental Slope. J. Micropalaentology (Blackpool, U.K.) 4, 165–183 (1985)Google Scholar
  43. Wigley, R. L. and A. D. McIntyre: Some quantitative comparisons of offshore meiobenthos and macrobenthos south of Martha's Vineyard. Limnol. Oceanogr. 9, 485–493 (1964)Google Scholar
  44. Wissing, T. E., R. M. Darnell, M. A. Ibrahim and L. Berner: Caloric values of marine animals from the Gulf of Mexico. Contr. mar. Sci. Univ. Tex. 17, 1–7 (1973)Google Scholar
  45. Zezina, O. N.: On some deep-sea brachipods from the Gay Head-Bermuda transect. Deep-Sea Res. 22, 903–9112 (1975)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. S. Lampitt
    • 1
  • D. S. M. Billett
    • 1
  • A. L. Rice
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Oceanographic SciencesNatural Environment Research CouncilWormley, GodalmingUK

Personalised recommendations