Assemblage structure, but not diversity or density, change with depth on a northeast Pacific seamount


Craig R. McClain, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, 2024 W. Main Street, Durham, NC 27705, USA.


Although depth-related patterns in assemblage structure are documented in several deep-sea systems, variation in diversity, assemblage structure, and abundance with depth on individual seamounts remains unexplored. Knowledge of alpha- and beta-diversity on single seamounts is needed for any robust generalization about large-scale biodiversity patterns on seamounts. Here, we explore bathymetric variation in benthic megafauna, based on ROV video transects, on Davidson seamount (1246–3656 m) in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. We found that substantial change in assemblage structure can occur over vertical scales on an individual seamount. Changes of 50% in assemblage composition (beta-diversity, faunal turnover) were observed over as little as a ∼1500 m depth interval down the flanks of the seamount, although bathymetric clines in composition were not uniform across major taxa. Diversity and density exhibit no consistent bathymetric pattern and can vary greatly on a single isobath. Our findings suggest that ecological and evolutionary processes may vary considerably on a single seamount. As such, seamounts should be viewed as patchworks of habitats where high beta-diversity may ultimately increase total biodiversity.