Zonal distribution and seasonal vertical migration of copepod assemblages in the Scotia Sea

Large, biomass-dominant Southern Ocean copepod species have been much studied, but small and mesopelagic species also play major rôles in these ecosystems. However, little is known of some basic aspects of their ecology. To address this, the abundances of 23 copepod species and genera were analysed from 72 stations sampled during the Discovery Expeditions in the 1920s to 1950s. Stratified net samples, usually to a depth of 1000 m, provided year-round coverage in the Scotia Sea from the Subantarctic Front to the Weddell-Scotia Confluence. Small copepods (Microcalanus pygmaeus, Ctenocalanus spp., Oncaea spp. and Oithona spp.) formed ∼75% of total copepod abundance in the top 1000 m across all major zones. Oithona spp. composed ∼40% of copepod numbers in the Polar Front area and to its south: further north their importance declined. All mesopelagic taxa except for the warmer-water species Metridia lucens and Pleuromamma robusta, extended throughout the entire study area, with smaller regional differences than for the shallower-living species. The species showed a continuum of temperature ranges, and there was no evidence that the Polar Front was a major biogeographic boundary to their distribution. Indeed, several important species, including Oithona spp. (mainly Oithona similis), Ctenocalanus spp., Metridia lucens and Rhincalanus gigas reached maximum numbers in this area. Total copepod abundance was thus higher in the vicinity of the Polar Front than in any other region. Only two copepod families made pronounced seasonal vertical migrations: Eucalaniidae (Eucalanus longiceps and R. gigas) and Calaniidae (Neocalanus tonsus, Calanoides acutus, Calanus simillimus and Calanus propinquus). Some evidence for a winter descent was found for Ctenocalanus spp. and some deeper-living groups: Euchaeta spp. and the Metridiidae, although their migrations were not so great as for the eucalanids and calanids.


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Authors: Atkinson, A., Sinclair, J.D.

1 January, 2000
Polar Biology / 23
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