Jellyfish diversity and distribution patterns in the tropical Southwestern Atlantic



Jellyfish are often the most prominent components of plankton, with severe consequences for fisheries and tourism. However, in tropical regions, there is much uncertainty about these consequences due to the lack of basic data. Our objective was to improve the knowledge about jellyfish in the Western Atlantic, with an emphasis on understanding diversity, abundance, and distribution patterns. Samples were collected at 34 stations in 1995 using a 300-μm-mesh Bongo net. The 21 species identified belonged to Hydromedusae (11), Siphonophora (nine), and Scyphomedusae (one). The overall mean density was low (5.2 ± 5.3 ind. m−3). Total Hydromedusae biomass was 130.86 mg C m−3, and total Siphonophora biomass was 19.04 mg C m−3. Chelophyes appendiculata (Eschscholtz, 1829) was the most frequent species captured in the oceanic samples, and Aglaura hemistoma (Péron & Lesueur, 1810) was the most common in the neritic region. The latter species is sometimes characterized as a bloom associated with the most polluted and eutrophic river plumes. The main role of jellyfish species in the area is as a higher-order carnivore. A cross-shelf significant difference (P < 0.05) was registered, with higher species numbers in oceanic regions and higher densities and biomass in neritic regions.