Patterns of diversity and endemism of soft-bodied meiofauna in an oceanic island, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Abstract

Oceanic islands, characterized by high levels of endemism and distinct faunas when compared to neighbouring continents, represent natural evolutionary laboratories for biologists to understand ecological and evolutionary processes. However, most studies on oceanic islands have focused on terrestrial and marine macrofaunal organisms, and ignored microscopic animals. We present here an inventory of all soft-bodied meiofaunal organisms collected during a 2-week workshop on the oceanic island of Lanzarote, Canary Islands. Our checklist included 239 species, with 88 of them endemic to the archipelago. The number of endemic species was lower in groups with a higher proportion of parthenogenetic species, while it was not significantly affected by body size and percentage of species with dispersal stages. A higher percentage of endemic species was found in isolated habitats and environments, with only annelids showing significantly higher number of endemic species in anchialine caves. Our results might be biased by the high number of indeterminate species found in our samples and the lack of knowledge of the meiofauna of the African coast. Our findings, however, provide the first insight of patterns of diversity of soft-bodied meiofauna in Atlantic oceanic islands, suggesting that island endemic species might also exist amongst microscopic animals.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Elena Mateo and Leopoldo Moro for their assistance obtaining the permissions to sample during the workshop. We are in debt to the divers Luis E. Cañadas, Enrique Domínguez, Carola D. Jorge, and Ralf Schoenemark, who assisted us collecting sediments, especially those from Montaña de Arena. The workshop was funded by Consejería de Medio Ambiente del Cabildo de Lanzarote and Reserva de la Biosfera. We thank Aula de la Naturaleza de Lanzarote for providing housing and space to set up our labs during the workshop. We are in debt to the diving clubs Pastinaca (Arrecife) and Punta Mujeres (Haria), and particularly to Antonio Martín and Juan Valenciano, for lending us diving gear and support. Juan Valenciano kindly sailed us for the collection of samples outside La Corona lava tube and provided some of the pictures used to illustrate this manuscript.

Funding

Collections in Lanzarote and secondary laboratory costs were financially supported by the Danish Research Council (grant no. 272–06–0260 to KW) and the Carlsberg Foundation (2010_01_0802 to KW) as well as Consejería de Medio Ambiente del Gobierno de Lanzarote and authorized by Gobierno de Canarias and Centros Turísticos. AM was supported by Marie Skolodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (grant number 745530 – “ANCAVE – Anchialine caves to understand evolutionary processes”). Nemertean fieldwork by JLN, subsequent laboratory work, and analyses were supported by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and private funds.

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Correspondence to Alejandro Martínez.

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This article is a contribution to the Topical Collection Interstitial and cave diversity in Atlantic oceanic islands

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Martínez, A., Di Domenico, M., Leasi, F. et al. Patterns of diversity and endemism of soft-bodied meiofauna in an oceanic island, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. Mar Biodiv 49, 2033–2055 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-019-01007-0

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Keywords

  • Anchialine
  • Annelida
  • Biogeography
  • Gastrotricha
  • Interstitial fauna
  • Caves
  • Proseriata
  • Rhabdocoela
  • Rotifera