Nematode diversity and distribution in the southern maritime Antarctic – clues to history?

Nematode worms are one of the most important soil faunal groups in Antarctica. However, relatively little is known about their wider distribution, biogeography and history in the region, and taxonomic information remains confused or incomplete. Here, we hypothesise that the Alexander Island (southern maritime Antarctic) fauna includes elements that have survived (at least) the period of Pleistocene glaciation in situ, forming a regional centre of endemism and biodiversity hotspot. We describe nematological surveys carried out across a latitudinal gradient between 68 and 771S along the southern Antarctic Peninsula, comparing the data obtained with the maritime Antarctic fauna described in the few previous studies between northern Marguerite Bay and the South Orkney Islands (60–681S). In general, our survey supports previous findings of a lack of overlap at species level between the maritime and continental Antarctic biogeographical zones, with the large majority of specimens obtained from all survey sites being attributable to known maritime or new and currently endemic taxa. However, collections from Alexander Island, Alamode Island and the most westerly site sampled, Charcot Island, include specimens morphologically very close to two known continental Antarctic species, which may indicate a link between the two regions. The fauna obtained at the northern study sites (ca. 681S, Adelaide Island, Marguerite Bay) closely matches that described previously. However, in contrast with widely described patterns of decreasing diversity in other Antarctic biota, species richness increased markedly at locations on Alexander Island (ca. 721S), including a substantial element of undescribed species (50% of taxa across all locations, 40% of taxa found on Alexander Island). Finally, the most southerly samples obtained, from inland nunataks in Ellsworth Land (75–771S), indicate a fauna that does not include nematodes, which is exceptional not only in an Antarctic context but also for soils worldwide.


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Authors: Maslen, N.R., Convey, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Convey

On this site: Peter Convey, Rolf Maslen
1 January, 2006
Soil Biology and Biochemistry / 38
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