Aim Deep-sea hydrothermal vents have now been reported along all active mid-ocean ridges and back-arc basins, but the boundaries of biogeographic entities remain questionable owing to methodological issues. Here we examine biogeographic patterns of the vent fauna along the East Pacific Rise (EPR) and determine the relative roles of regional and local factors on the distribution of biodiversity associated with mussel beds along a poorly explored zone, the southern EPR (SEPR).
Location East Pacific Rise.
Methods A species list of macrobenthic invertebrates along the EPR was compiled from the literature and supplemented with data recovered during the French research cruise BIOSPEEDO carried out in 2004 along the SEPR. Biogeographic patterns were assessed by combining the identification of morphological species with a molecular barcoding approach. A multivariate regression tree (MRT) analysis was performed to identify any geographic breaks, and an empirical distribution of species richness was compared with predictions provided by a mid-domain effect model. Macrofaunal community structure associated with mussel beds along the SEPR was analysed in relation to environmental factors using cluster and canonical redundancy analyses.
Results Sequencing of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene revealed the occurrence of several cryptic species complexes along the EPR, with the equator separating the southern and northern clades. Furthermore, during the BIOSPEEDO cruise at least 10 still unnamed species were collected between 7°25′ S and 21°33′ S. The shift in community structure identified by MRT analysis was located south of 17°34′ S or south of 13°59′ S, depending on the data used, suggesting that the southern part of the SEPR (17°25′–21°33′ S) constitutes a biogeographic transition zone in the vent fauna along the EPR. At a regional scale, latitude combined with the type of venting was significantly correlated with the community structure associated with mussel beds.
Main conclusions Together, the molecular data, in situ observations, and the distribution of species suggest that the high diversity of vent fauna species presently observed between 17°25′ S and 21°33′ S is probably a result of the overlap of several distinct biogeographic provinces. We argue that this area thus constitutes a biogeographic vent fauna transition zone along the EPR.