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Taxonomic diversity and identification problems of oncaeid microcopepods in the Mediterranean Sea

Abstract

The species diversity of the pelagic microcopepod family Oncaeidae collected with nets of 0.1-mm mesh size was studied at 6 stations along a west-to-east transect in the Mediterranean Sea down to a maximum depth of 1,000 m. A total of 27 species and two form variants have been identified, including three new records for the Mediterranean. In addition, about 20, as yet undescribed, new morphospecies were found (mainly from the genera Epicalymma and Triconia) which need to be examined further. The total number of identified oncaeid species was similar in the Western and Eastern Basins, but for some co-occurring sibling species, the estimated numerical dominance changed. The deep-sea fauna of Oncaeidae, studied at selected depth layers between 400 m and the near-bottom layer at >4,200 m depth in the eastern Mediterranean (Levantine Sea), showed rather constant species numbers down to ∼3,000 m depth. In the near-bottom layers, the diversity of oncaeids declined and species of Epicalymma strongly increased in numerical importance. The taxonomic status of all oncaeid species recorded earlier in the Mediterranean Sea is evaluated: 19 out of the 46 known valid oncaeid species are insufficiently described, and most of the taxonomically unresolved species (13 species) have originally been described from this area (type locality). The deficiencies in the species identification of oncaeids cast into doubt the allegedly cosmopolitan distribution of some species, in particular those of Mediterranean origin. The existing identification problems even of well-described oncaeid species are exemplified for the Oncaea media-complex, including O. media Giesbrecht, O. scottodicarloi Heron & Bradford-Grieve, and O. waldemari Bersano & Boxshall, which are often erroneously identified as a single species (O. media). The inadequacy in the species identification of Oncaeidae, in particular those from the Atlantic and Mediterranean, is mainly due to the lack of reliable identification keys for Oncaeidae in warm-temperate and/or tropical seas. Future efforts should be directed to the construction of identification keys that can be updated according to the latest taxonomic findings, which can be used by the non-expert as well as by the specialist. The adequate consideration of the numerous, as yet undescribed, microcopepod species in the world oceans, in particular the Oncaeidae, is a challenge for the study of the structure and function of plankton communities as well as for global biodiversity estimates.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank D. Elvers (University of Bremen) and Dr. R. Koppelmann (University of Hamburg) for collecting the fine mesh net samples during RV “Meteor” cruise 51/2. Thanks are due to Dr. H. Weikert (University of Hamburg) for making available additional small mesh net samples from benthopelagic layers in the Mediterranean Sea. Sincere thanks are given to Prof. K. Lochte (formerly IFM-GEOMAR, now AWI, Bremerhaven) and Prof. U. Riebesell (IFM-GEOMAR) for providing R.B.--S with excellent working facilities. The personal support of Elisabeth Samusch to R.B.-S is gratefully acknowledged. Parts of this study are based on a joint project of R.B.-S and Dr. R. Machida (University of Tokyo), representing a contribution from the Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ), an ocean realm field project of the Census of Marine Life. The study was supported by a research grant from the German Science Foundation to R.B.-S (Schn 455/4-1).

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Böttger-Schnack, R., Schnack, D. Taxonomic diversity and identification problems of oncaeid microcopepods in the Mediterranean Sea. Mar Biodiv 39, 131–145 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-009-0013-8

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Keywords

  • Copepoda
  • Oncaeidae
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Species diversity
  • Deep-sea
  • Oncaea media-complex