Marine Biology

, 165:117 | Cite as

Acantharian cysts: high flux occurrence in the bathypelagic zone of the Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

  • Anna BelcherEmail author
  • Clara Manno
  • Sally Thorpe
  • Geraint Tarling


The abundance and flux of acantharian cysts were recorded for a period of 12 months from December 2012 to 2013 in a sediment trap deployed at 1500 m in the north-eastern Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean. Acantharia (radiolarian protists) are found globally, have very dense celestite skeletons, and form cysts which can sink rapidly through the water column. However, they are highly soluble in seawater and have rarely been found to contribute significantly to fluxes of particulate organic carbon (POC) in mesopelagic or bathypelagic zones. We measured fluxes of acantharian cysts of up to 2706 ind. m−2 day−1, which we estimate to drive a POC flux of 5.1 mg C m−2 day−1. These acantharian cyst fluxes are unprecedented in the literature, and accounted for 17% of the annual POC flux at this site (0.5–26.0%). The high fluxes of acantharian cysts (and associated high POC fluxes) measured highlight the pressing need for further research into the life cycles of Acantharia to understand what drives the mass flux of their cysts, and to determine the contribution of Acantharia to the biological carbon pump.



We would like to thank the crew, officers and scientists aboard the R.R.S. James Clark Ross during research cruises JR280 and JR291. Special thanks to Peter Enderlein, Gabrielle Stowasser and Sophie Fielding for their help in deployment and recovery of the sediment trap. In particular, we would like to thank Meltem Ok for her dedicated work supporting sediment trap sample analysis. In addition, we thank Paul Geissler for carrying out CHN analysis. We thank the reviewers and journal editor for their constructive comments on our manuscript. The work undertaken was supported by the Ocean Ecosystems programme at British Antarctic Survey. The chlorophyll a and sea surface temperature data were provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Ocean Ecology Laboratory, Ocean Biology Processing Group (2014): Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Aqua Chlorophyll Data; 2014 Reprocessing. NASA OB.DAAC, Greenbelt, MD, USA. Accessed on 09/10/2014.


This study was supported by the Ocean Ecosystems programme at British Antarctic Survey.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3376_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (121 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 121 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK

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