Are deep-sea demersal fish assemblages globally homogenous? Insights from seamounts


Malcolm R. Clark, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Wellington 6021, New Zealand.


Deep-sea fishes have been poorly sampled globally, and overall knowledge of demersal fish distributions and the drivers of community composition and diversity remain limited. Here, we used nine comparable datasets with species-level identification of fishes from research surveys around the world to test the hypothesis that deep-sea demersal fish assemblage composition on seamounts is consistent between major oceans. Two levels of analysis were undertaken: the first combined all presence-absence data from a seamount, while a second more detailed analysis included catch weight data based on a smaller number of seamounts. Overall, there was a consistent separation of seamounts by region based on the compositions of their fish assemblages. New Zealand and SE Australian seamounts have a very similar ichthyofauna, which differs substantially from seamounts in the eastern South Pacific Ocean off Chile. In the North Atlantic, Bear Seamount appears to be distinct from all others, while seamount fish assemblages off Ireland, the Azores, and Faraday Seamount have some affinities. The Tasman Sea and New Caledonian seamounts show strong intra-regional variation. On an ocean basin scale we therefore reject the hypothesis that the composition of deep-sea demersal fish fauna is homogeneous globally. However, regional patterns of both species composition and relative abundance show some similarities between widely separated geographical locations, especially where orange roughy is a dominant species. Salinity was the main environmental factor identified in a multivariate analysis of environmental covariate data. This is likely to be a result of salinity being a key characteristic defining both Antarctic Intermediate Water and North Atlantic Deep Water, the water masses found over most seamounts examined in this study, and which may explain similarities between deep-sea fish assemblages.