Spatial heterogeneity and niche differentiation in oceanic zooplankton

  • R. Williams
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 47)


The annual mean abundance (1958 to 1986) and geographical distributions of four of the major biomass species of copepod in the northern North Atlantic Ocean arc shown together with their seasonal vertical distributions (1971 to 1974) from Ocean Weather Station I. The arcticboreal species Euchaeta norvegica and Calanus finmarchicus have sympatnc distributions with their maximum numerical abundance in the cold water current system between Labrador and Greenland. The distribution of the temperate species Pleuromamma robusta and Metridia lucens are allopatric with respect to the two previous species but have sympatric distributions centering around the north-eastern oceanic region. The four species dominate the copepod biomass of the oceanic epiplankton and minimise interspecific competition by a) seasonal displacement of their main reproductive periods, b) occupying different trophic levels, c) having diverse reproductive strategies, d) residing in different positions in the water column and e) having different migratory behaviour throughout the year. The vertical distributions and migratory behaviour of these four copepods suggest a highly structured community with individual species occupying distinct niches with minimum overlap between competitors; even though the vertical distributions of the species arc constantly changing through diel, ontogenetic and seasonal migrations.

Key words

copepoda vertical distribution seasonal abundance niche 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bradley, R. A & D. W. Bradley, 1985. Do non-random patterns of species in niche space imply competition. Oikos 45: 443–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Colebrook. J M. 1982. Continuous plankton records: seasonal variations in the distribution and abundance of plankton in the North Atlantic Ocean and North Sen. J Plankton Res. 4: 435–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ghilarov, A. M., 1984. The paradox of the plankton reconsidered: or why do species coexist? Oikos 43: 46–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Glover, R S., 1967. The continuous plankton recorder survey of the North Atlantic Symp. zool. Soc. Lond. 19. 189–210.Google Scholar
  5. Hassell, MP. 1980. Some Consequences of habitat hetrogeneity for population dynamics. Oikos 35: 150–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Longhurst, A. R., 1985. Relationship between plankton diversity and the vertical structure of the upper ocean. Deep Sea Res. 32: 1535–1570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Longhurst, A. R. & R Williams. 1976 Improved filtration systems for multiple-series plankton samples and their deployment. Deep Sea Res. 23: 1067–1073.Google Scholar
  8. Longhurst, A. R. & R. Williams, 1979. Materials for plankton modelling: Vertical distribution of Atlantic zooplanklon in summer. J. Plankton Res. 1: 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Sameto, D D.. 1986. Influence of the biological and physical environment on the vertical distribution of mesozooplankton and micronekton in the eastern tropical pacific. Mar Biol. 93: 263–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Sorokin, Yu, I., 1980. Microheterotrophic organisms in Marine ecosystems. In A. R. Longhurst (ed.). Analysis of Marine Ecosystems. Academic Press. London & New York: 293–341Google Scholar
  11. Williams. R. 1974. Biological sampling at OWS INDIA (59°00’N 19°00’W) in 1972 Annls. biol. Copenh. 30: 41–44Google Scholar
  12. Williams. R & C. C Hopkins. 1975. Biological sampling at OWS INDIA (50°00’N 19°00’W) in 1973. Annls. biol. Copenh. 31: 60–62.Google Scholar
  13. Williams. R. & C. C Hopkins, 1976. Biological sampling at OWS INDIA (59°00’N I9°00’W) in 1974. Annls. biol Copenh. 32: 57–60.Google Scholar
  14. Williams, R & G. A. Robinson, 1973. Biological sampling at OWS INDIA (59°00’N 19°00’W) in 1971. Annls. biol Copenh. 28: 57–59.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Environment Research CouncilInstitute for Marine Environmental Research, Prospect PlaceThe Hoe, PlymouthEngland

Personalised recommendations