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Connecting species richness, abundance and body size in deep-sea gastropods



Aim  This paper examines species richness, abundance, and body size in deep-sea gastropods and how they vary over depth, which is a strong correlate of nutrient input. Previous studies have documented the empirical relationships among these properties in terrestrial and coastal ecosystems, but a full understanding of how these patterns arise has yet to be obtained. Examining the relationships among macroecological variables is a logical progression in deep-sea ecology, where patterns of body size, diversity, and abundance have been quantified separately but not linked together.

Location  196–5042 m depth in the western North Atlantic.

Method  Individuals analysed represent all Vetigastropoda and Caenogastropoda (Class Gastropoda) with intact shells, excluding Ptenoglossa, collected by the Woods Hole Benthic Sampling Program (3424 individuals representing 80 species). Biovolume was measured for every individual separately (i.e. allowing the same species to occupy multiple size classes) and divided into log2 body size bins. Analyses were conducted for all gastropods together and separated into orders and depth regions (representing different nutrient inputs). A kernel smoothing technique, Kolmogorov-Smirnov test of fit, and OLS and RMA were used to characterize the patterns.

Results  Overall, the relationship between the number of individuals and species is right skewed. There is also a positive linear relationship between the number of individuals and the number of species, which is independent of body size. Variation among these relationships is seen among the three depth regions. At depths inferred to correspond with intermediate nutrient input levels, species are accumulated faster given the number of individuals and shift from a right-skewed to a log-normal distribution.

Conclusion  A strong link between body size, abundance, and species richness appears to be ubiquitous over a variety of taxa and environments, including the deep sea. However, the nature of these relationships is affected by the productivity regime and scale at which they are examined.