Latitudinal and bathymetric patterns in the distribution and abundance of mesopelagic fish in the Scotia Sea
Mesopelagic fish are a key component of the pelagic ecosystem throughout the world’s oceans. Opening and closing nets were used to investigate patterns in the distribution and abundance of mesopelagic fish from the surface to 1000 m on a series of transects across the Scotia Sea from the ice-edge to the Antarctic Polar Front. A total of 141 non-target net hauls were undertaken during three cruises (Nov 2006, Jan 2008 and Mar 2009), with 7852 teleost fish captured, representing 43 species in 17 families. A further 1517 fish were caught in targeted net hauls. The dominant families were the Myctophidae (6961 specimens; 21 species) and Bathylagidae (1467 specimens; 4 species). Few fish were caught in the upper 400 m during daylight, which was attributed to a combination of net avoidance and diurnal vertical migration. Species composition was linked to depth and location and was closely associated with oceanographic features. Diversity was lowest in cold water at the most southerly stations, which were dominated by Electrona antarctica, Gymnoscopelus braueri and Bathylagus antarcticus. Further north, diversity increased with the addition of species such as Krefftichthys anderssoni, Protomyctophum bolini and Electrona carlsbergi. The depth integrated biomass of myctophids was similar across the latitudinal transect and produced an estimate of 4.5 million tonnes in the Scotia Sea. Bathylagids were patchily distributed, but were abundant in the lower mesopelagic zone (>400 m) and are potentially significant zooplankton consumers. Given the biomass of the myctophids and bathylagids coupled with the vertical migrations of many species, these fish are likely to play a significant role in carbon export from the surface waters to the deep ocean.
Authors: Collins, Martin Anthony, Stowasser, Gabriele, Fielding, Sophie, Shreeve, Rachael, Xavier, José C., Venables, Hugh, Enderlein, Peter, Cherel, Yves, Van de Putte, Anton