The ecological role of brachiopods in the Namuncurá MPA/Burdwood Bank, off southern South America

  • Sandra GordilloEmail author
  • María Sol Bayer
  • María Carla de Aranzamendi
  • Anabela Taverna
  • Gisela A. Morán
Original Paper


Extant brachiopods have been very little studied, despite being abundant along the Argentine marine platform and southern areas of the Subantarctic region. In this survey, we examined brachiopod assemblages from the Namuncurá MPA/Burdwood Bank area, off southern South America. The material (n = 1203) was recovered from 43 stations ranging in depth from 50 to 785 m during two oceanographic expeditions. Two species (Liothyrella uva and Terebratella dorsata) together represent 95% of the total abundance, with no significant decrease in body size over depths of 800 and 400 m respectively. A third species (Magellania venosa) was found in very small quantities shallower than 200 m, and with a large variation in size. There is a greater proportion (63.37%) of brachiopods with epibionts/encrusters, mainly bryozoans and tubiferous polychaetes, which are more common on the ventral valves of larger specimens, and mainly at depths shallower than 400 m. It was also observed that empty shells serve as a microhabitat for micromolluscs, mainly bivalves. The brachiopods showed signs of drilling predation (8.74%), but they were also prey for other unidentified predators. These predators left a different kind of damage concentrated around the shell margins (19.20%), which should be the subject of further investigation. Based on these results, it is interpreted that brachiopods from the Namuncurá MPA/Burdwood Bank appear to play an important role in the biotic and trophic interactions of benthic Subantarctic marine fauna, whether acting as substrates, refuges, or food.


SW Atlantic Argentinean shelf Subantarctic region Biotic interactions 



This study was carried out jointly with members of CICTERRA and IDEA, CONICET, and the National University of Córdoba. The authors wish to thank the RV A.R.A. Puerto Deseado and its crew for their help during activities on board, especially Daniel Roccatagliata (Scientific Head, 2016) and Laura Schejter (Scientific Head, 2017). This paper is a contribution to the Argentine “Pampa Azul” Marine National Science Project and to CONICET-PIP-114-201101-00238. The authors would also like to thank Marcos Tatián for his collaboration with the logistic of collection and transportation of the samples (SECyT N°30720150100406CB). The authors further acknowledge the editors Lena Menzel and Craig Smith and two anonymous reviewers, who contributed suggestions and comments that improved the final version of the manuscript.


This study was funded by CONICET (grant number PIP-114-201101-00238) and SECyT N°30720150100406CB.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities mentioned in the acknowledgements.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  1. Acha EM, Mianzan HW, Guerrero RA, Favero M, Bava J (2004) Marine fronts at the continental shelves of austral South America: physical and ecological processes. J Mar Syst 44:83–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arntz W, Brey T (2003) Expedition ANTARKTIS XIX/5(LAMPOS) of RV “Polarstern” in 2002. Ber Polarforsch Meeresforsch 462:1–124Google Scholar
  3. Baumiller TK, Bitner MA (2004) A case of intense predatory drilling of brachiopods from the Middle Miocene of southeastern Poland. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 214:85–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumiller TK, Bitner MA, Emig CC (2006) High frequency of drill holes in brachiopods from the Pliocene of Algeria and its ecological implications. Lethaia 39:313–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bitner MA, Cohen B (2013) Brachiopoda. In ELS. Wiley & Sons, Chichester.Google Scholar
  6. Carroll M, Kowalewski M, Simões MG, Goodfriend GA (2003) Quantitative estimates of time-averaging in brachiopod shell accumulations from a modern tropical shelf. Paleobiology 29:382–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cavallotto JL, Violante RA, Hernández-Molina FJ (2011) Geological aspects and evolution of the Patagonian continental margin. Biol J Linn Soc 103(2):346–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooper GA (1973) Vema's brachiopoda (recent). Smithson Contrib Paleobiol 17:1–51Google Scholar
  9. Delance JH, Emig CC (2004) Drilling predation on Gryphus vitreus (Brachiopoda) off the French Mediterranean coasts. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 208:23–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Emig CC, Bitner MA, Álvarez F (2013) Phylum Brachiopoda. In: Zhang, ZQ (ed), Animal biodiversity: an outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness (addenda 2013). Auckland, New Zealand 1–82 ppGoogle Scholar
  11. Esteban FD, Tassone A, Menichetti M, Lodolo E (2016) Application of slope maps as a complement of bathymetry: example from the SW Atlantic. Mar Geod 40:57–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Feldmann RD, MacKinnon DI, Endo K, Chirino-Galvez L (1996) Pinnotheres laquei Sakai (Decapoda: Pinnotheridae), a tiny crab commensal within the brachiopod Laqueus rubellus (Sowerby) (Terebratulida: Laqueidae). J Pal 70:303–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Feruglio E (1950) Descripción geológica de la Patagonia, vol 3. Dirección General de Y.P.F, Buenos Aires 431 ppGoogle Scholar
  14. Försterra G, Häussermann V, Lüter C (2008) Mass occurrences of the recent brachiopod Magellania venosa (Terebratellidae) in the fjords Comau and Reñihue, Chile. Mar Ecol 29:342–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Foster MW (1974) Recent Antarctic and sub-Antarctic brachiopods. Antarct Res Ser 22:1–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Foster MW (1989) Brachiopods from the extreme South Pacific and adjacent waters. J Paleontol 63:268–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gordillo S (1990) Braquiópodos del Holoceno Medio del Canal Beagle, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. In: Actas XI Congreso Geológico Argentino, 2. San Juan, Argentina, 215–218Google Scholar
  18. Gordillo S, Archuby F (2012) Predation by drilling gastropods and asteroids upon mussels in rocky shallow shores of southernmost South America: paleontological implications. Acta Palaeontol Pol 57(3):633–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gordillo S, Archuby F (2014) Live-live and live-dead interactions in marine death assemblages: the case of the Patagonian clam Venus antiqua. Acta Palaeontol Pol 59(2):429–442Google Scholar
  20. Gordillo S, Muñoz DF, Bayer MS, Malvé ME (2018) How physical and biotic factors affect brachiopods from the Patagonian Continental Shelf. J Mar Syst 187:223–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guerrero RA, Baldoni A, Benavides H (1999) Oceanographic conditions at the southern end of the argentine continental slope. INIDEP documento cientifico. Mar del Plata [Inidep Doc. Cient] 5:7–22Google Scholar
  22. Hallman DP, Jonathan DM, Flessa KW (1996) Experimental taphonomy: the effect of shell size and shape on transport within the intertidal zone. Sixth North American Paleontological Convention, The Paleontological Society Special Publication 8:157Google Scholar
  23. Harper EM (2011) What do we really know about predation on modern rhynchonelliforms? Mems Assoc Australas Palaeontologists 41:45–57Google Scholar
  24. Harper EM, Peck LS (2003) Predatory behaviour and metabolic costs in the Antarctic muricid gastropod Trophon longstaffi. Polar Biol 26:208–217Google Scholar
  25. Harper EM, Peck LS, Hendry KR (2009) Patterns of shell repair in articulate brachiopods indicate size constitutes a refuge from predation. Mar Biol 156:1993–2000CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kelley PH, Kowalewski M, Hansen TA (eds) (2003) Predator–prey interactions in the fossil record. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Kowalewski M. (2002) The fossil record of predation: an overview of analytical methods. In: Kowalewski M, Kelley PH (eds) The fossil record of predation. Paleontological Society, Spec Pap 8: 3–42Google Scholar
  28. Kowalewski M, Kelley PH (2002) The fossil record of predation. Paleontological Society, Spec Pap 8Google Scholar
  29. Kowalewski M, Simões MG, Carroll M, Rodland DL (2002) Abundant brachiopods on a tropical, upwelling-influenced shelf (Southeast Brazilian Bight, South Atlantic). Palaios 17:274–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krause RA Jr, Barbour Wood SE, Kowalewski M, Kaufman DS, Romanek CS, Simões MG, Wehmiller JF (2010) Quantitative comparisons and models of time-averaging in bivalve and brachiopod shell accumulations. Paleobiology 36:428–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Manceñido MO, Griffin M (1988) Distribution and palaeoenvironmental significance of the genus Bouchardia (Brachiopoda, Terebratellidina): its bearing on the Cenozoic evolution of the South Atlantic. Rev Bras Geosci 18:201–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McCammon H (1970) Variations in recent brachiopod populations. B Geol Institutions, University of Uppsala, new ser 2: 41–48Google Scholar
  33. McCammon HM (1973) The ecology of Magellania venosa, an articulate brachiopod. J Paleontol 47(2):266–278Google Scholar
  34. Morán G, Gordillo S, Bayer S (2017) Epibiosis on brachiopods from Patagonia, Argentina (40°–55°S): composition, spatial variation, and preservation. Springer Earth System Sciences. Rabassa (ed), Advances in geomorphology and quaternary studies in Argentina, 978-3-319-54370-3Google Scholar
  35. Peck L, Harper EM (2010) Variation in size of living articulate brachiopods with latitude. Mar Biol 157(10):2205–2213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Peterson RG, Whitworth T III (1989) The subantarctic and polar fronts in relation to deep water masses through the southwestern Atlantic. J Geophys Res 94:10.817–10.838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Piola AR, Gordon AL (1989) Intermediate waters in the southwest South Atlantic. Deep-Sea Res 36:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ponce JF, Rabassa J (2012) La plataforma submarina y la costa atlántica Argentina durante los últimos 22.000 años. Ciencia Hoy 22:50–56Google Scholar
  39. Richardson JR (1997) Ecology of articulated brachiopods. In: Kaesler RL (ed) Treatise on invertebrate paleontology. Part H. Brachiopoda. Revised. Geological Society of America and University of Kansas, Lawrence, pp 441–462Google Scholar
  40. Rodland DL, Kowalewski M, Simões MG, Carroll M (2004) Colonization of a ‘lost world’: encrustation patterns in modern subtropical brachiopod assemblages. Palaios 19:384–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rodrigues SC, Simões MG (2010) Taphonomy of Bouchardia rosea (Rhynchonelliformea, Brachiopoda) shells from Ubatuba Bay, Brazil: implications for the use of taphonomic signatures in (paleo) environmental analysis. Ameghiniana 47:373–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rodrigues SC, Simões MG, Kowalewski M, Petti MAV, Nonato EF, Martinez S, del Rio CJ (2008) Biotic interaction between spionid polychaetes and bouchardiid brachiopods: paleoecological, taphonomic and evolutionary implications. Acta Palaeontol Pol 53:657–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roux A, Bremec CS (1996) Braquiópodos registrados en el Atlántico sudoccidental durante las campañas del BIP Shinkai Maru (1978–1979). Rev Invest Desarr Pesq 10:109–114Google Scholar
  44. Schejter L, Rimondino C, Chiesa I, Díaz de Astarloa JM, Doti B, Elias R, Escolar M, Genzano G, López Gappa J, Tatián M, Zelaya DG, Cristobo J, Pérez CD, Cordeiro RT, Bremec CS (2016) Namuncurá marine protected area: an oceanic hot spot of benthic biodiversity at Burdwood Bank, Argentina. Polar Biol 39(12):2373–2386Google Scholar
  45. Scottish National Antarctic Expedition 1902–1904 (1908) Report on the scientific results of the voyage of the S.Y. “Scotia” during the years 1902, 1903, and 1904 under the leadership of William S. Bruce, vol 4, ZoologyGoogle Scholar
  46. Simões M, Kowalewski M, Mello LHC, Rodland DL, Carroll M (2004) Present-day terebratulid brachiopods from the southern Brazilian Shelf: paleontological and biogeographic implications. Palaeontology 47:515–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Simões MG, Rodrigues SC, Kowalewski M (2005a) Dead-live fidelity of brachiopod assemblages in the Ubatuba bay, Brazil: taphonomical and paleoecological implications: 2nd International Meeting Taphos 05, abstract volume, v. June, Barcelona, p. 143–144Google Scholar
  48. Simões MG, Rodrigues SC, Leme JDM, BissaroJúnior MC (2005b) The settling pattern of brachiopod shells: stratigraphic and taphonomic implications to shell bed formation and paleoecology. Rev Bras Geociênc 35:383–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Simões MG, Rodrigues SC, Kowalewski M (2007) Comparative analysis of drilling frequencies in recent brachiopod-mollusk associations from the Southern Brazilian Shelf. Palaios 22:143–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Simões MG, Rodrigues SC, Kowalewski M (2009) Bouchardia rosea, a vanishing brachiopod species of the Brazilian platform: taphonomy, historical ecology and conservation paleobiology. Hist Biol 21:123–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Taddei Ruggiero E, Raia P (2010) Bioerosion structures and their distribution on shells of the Lower Pleistocene terebratulid brachiopod Gryphus minor. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 293:157–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ulibarrena J, Conzonno VH (2015) Mechanisms involved in the proliferation and distribution of phytoplankton in the Patagonian Sea, Argentina, as revealed by remote sensing studies. Environ Earth Sci 74:439–449Google Scholar
  53. Vermeij GJ (1987) Evolution and escalation. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  54. Williams Alwyn, Brunton CHC, Carlson SJ, et al. (2006) Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Part H. Brachiopoda. Revised. Volume 5: Rhynchonelliformea (part): Geological Society of America and University of Kansas, Boulder, Colorado, and Lawrence, Kansas, p. 1689–2320Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Gordillo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • María Sol Bayer
    • 1
    • 2
  • María Carla de Aranzamendi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Anabela Taverna
    • 1
    • 3
  • Gisela A. Morán
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y NaturalesCórdobaArgentina
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas (CONICET)Centro de investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra, (CICTERRA)CórdobaArgentina
  3. 3.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas (CONICET)Instituto de Diversidad y Ecología Animal (IDEA)CórdobaArgentina

Personalised recommendations