Benthic Crustacea from tropical and temperate reef locations: differences in assemblages and their relationship with habitat structure
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Tropical and temperate marine habitats have long been recognised as fundamentally different system, yet comparative studies are rare, particularly for small organisms such as Crustacea. This study investigates the ecological attributes (abundance, biomass and estimated productivity) of benthic Crustacea in selected microhabitats from a tropical and a temperate location, revealing marked differences in the crustacean assemblages. In general, microhabitats from the tropical location (dead coral, the epilithic algal matrix [algal turfs] and sand) supported high abundances of small individuals (mean length = 0.53 mm vs. 0.96 mm in temperate microhabitats), while temperate microhabitats (the brown seaweed Carpophyllum sp., coralline turf and sand) had substantially greater biomasses of crustaceans and higher estimated productivity rates. In both locations, the most important microhabitats for crustaceans (per unit area) were complex structures: tropical dead coral and temperate Carpophyllum sp. It appears that the differences between microhabitats are largely driven by the size and relative abundance of key crustacean groups. Temperate microhabitats have a higher proportion of relatively large Peracarida (Amphipoda and Isopoda), whereas tropical microhabitats are dominated by small detrital- and microalgal-feeding crustaceans (harpacticoid copepods and ostracods). These differences highlight the vulnerability of tropical and temperate systems to the loss of complex benthic structures and their associated crustacean assemblages.
KeywordsTropical Temperate Crustacea Habitat structure Turf Sand
We would like to thank C. E. Mirbach, A. Spyksma, Leigh Marine Laboratory and Lizard Island Research Station for field support, J. Kramer, K. W. Kramer, and J. Tengvall for laboratory assistance, S. J. Brandl, S. B. Tebbett and M. Thiel for discussions and comments on earlier drafts, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (D. R. B.).
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