Biodiversity and biogeography of Southern Ocean pycnogonids
The pycnogonids of the Southern Ocean have been studied for almost two centuries and have played a key role in shaping previous biogeographic regions for the Antarctic benthos. The aim of this study was to assess the biogeographic patterns derived from the most current sample records of pycnogonids from the Southern Ocean and neighbouring areas. 332 species of pycnogonids from 1837 sample locations were analysed using 279 3 degrees by 3 degrees grid cells. We investigated richness patterns and the effect of sampling intensity at both local and regional scales, and used multivariate analysis of distribution patterns and species assemblages to define biogeographic trends. These analyses identified a distinct and isolated Antarctic pycnogonid shelf fauna which was different to that of the deep-sea around Antarctica, the Sub-Antarctic islands, South America or New Zealand. Within the Antarctic, we found the South Shetland Islands to be the most speciose region and a probable center of radiation for the pycnogonids. No latitudinal gradients in species richness were detected. We note that the distribution patterns observed are based upon classical taxonomy and discuss the potential for changes to these patterns with new insights from molecular techniques. We conclude that, even with the potential for cryptic species, the large-scale biogeographic trends observed in the pycnogonids should hold true.