Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 143–159 | Cite as

The state of knowledge on deep-sea nematode taxonomy: how many valid species are known down there?

  • Dmitry M. Miljutin
  • Gunnar Gad
  • Maria M. Miljutina
  • Vadim O. Mokievsky
  • Verônica Fonseca-Genevois
  • André M. Esteves


All available information from literature sources dealing with deep-sea nematode species was analyzed, in order to obtain an overview of the state of knowledge in deep-sea nematode taxonomy and answer the question of how many valid nematode species are known from the deep sea so far. One hundred and twenty-seven taxonomic and ecological literature sources reported a total of 638 valid species belonging to 175 genera and 44 families, from 474 deep-sea stations at depths of 400–8,380 m. This number is less than 16% of all known marine nematode species, whereas the deep sea comprises about 91% of the ocean bottom. Of these species, 71% were initially described from the deep sea. Most of the valid species have been reported from the North Atlantic, including the Mediterranean. The rest of the World Ocean, including the Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Antarctic oceans, is considerably less studied. The largest numbers of valid species were reported from the continental slope and the abyssal plains, while information on valid species from trenches, deep-sea canyons, and seamounts is extremely scanty. Some deep-sea families are much more investigated than others in proportion to their relative species abundances in the deep sea, i.e., the percentage of valid species from these families among all valid deep-sea species is much higher than the real percentage of species from these families reported in faunistic studies (e.g., Desmoscolecidae, Comesomatidae, Sphaerolaimidae, Benthimermithidae, Leptosomatidae, and Draconematidae). On the other hand, the families Xyalidae, Oxystominidae, and Monhysteridae were recognized as the most “underinvestigated,” as, in spite of their high species abundance in the deep sea, there are quite a few taxonomic studies on these taxa. Some deep-sea nematode species were reported from two or three oceans, and can be considered probable cosmopolitan species. Some number of probable eurybathic species were also found (the difference between minimum and maximum depth was from 1 km to more than 5 km).


Abyss Continental slope Cosmopolitan Eurybathic Deep-sea habitats Marine free-living nematodes Valid species 



The authors express their gratitude to Mr. Jeroen Ingels (Ghent University, Belgium), who kindly helped with finding some data during the preparation of the manuscript, and also to Mrs. Tatiana Maria (Ghent University, Belgium) for her comments on the manuscript and Dr. Janet W. Reid, JWR Associates, for her critical revision of the English text. The first and third authors also thank CeDAMar and CoML for financial support of their investigation. The article was planned during the CeDAMar Workshop “Cosmopolitanism in the Deep Sea” (2008, Senckenberg Research Institute, German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research, Wilhelmshaven, Germany).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Senckenberg, Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dmitry M. Miljutin
    • 1
  • Gunnar Gad
    • 1
  • Maria M. Miljutina
    • 1
  • Vadim O. Mokievsky
    • 2
  • Verônica Fonseca-Genevois
    • 3
  • André M. Esteves
    • 3
  1. 1.Forschungsinstitut SenckenbergDeutsches Zentrum für Marine BiodiversitätsforschungWilhelmshavenGermany
  2. 2.P.P. Shirshov Institute of OceanologyRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  3. 3.Departamento de ZoologiaLaboratório de MeiofaunaRecifeBrazil

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