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The western Antarctic Peninsula harbours a diverse benthic marine community where dense canopies of macroalgae can dominate the shallow subtidal zone (0–40 m or greater). In the lower portion of this range (below 25–35 m depending on topography), invertebrates such as sponges and echinoderms can be found in greater abundance due to reduced competition for space from the algal species. Dendrilla antarctica (previously Dendrilla membranosa) is a common demosponge that thrives in both communities and is known for producing diterpene secondary metabolites as a defence against sympatric sea star and amphipod predators. Omnivorous mesograzers such as amphipods inhabit both communities; however, they are in greatest abundance within the macroalgal canopy. Due to the differences between habitats, it was hypothesized that specific amphipod species not susceptible to the defensive metabolites of D. antarctica would take refuge from predators in the chemically defended sponge. Analysis of the metabolome and amphipod communities from sponges in both habitats found correlations of metabolic profile to both abundance and habitat. These studies serve to inform our understanding of the complex ecosystem of the Antarctic benthos that stands to be dramatically altered by the rapidly changing climate in the years to come.
Gastropods are an important component of subtidal Antarctic communities including in common association with macroalgae. Nonetheless, limited data exist detailing their abundance and distribution on macroalgal species. This study documents the abundance and species composition of gastropod assemblages on the two largest, blade-forming Antarctic macroalgae, Himantothallus grandifolius and Sarcopeltis antarctica, sampled across two depths (9 and 18 m) at four sites for each species off Anvers Island, Antarctica. Gastropods were also enumerated on Desmarestia anceps, Desmarestia antarctica and Plocamium sp. but were not included in the main analyses because of small sample sizes. There were major differences between the gastropod assemblages on deep vs shallow H. grandifolius and S. antarctica with much higher numbers of individuals and also greater numbers of gastropod species at the greater depth. Differences between the gastropod assemblages on H. grandifolius and S. antarctica across sampling sites were apparent in non-parametric, multivariate analyses, although depth contributed more than site to these differences. Within common sites, assemblages on H. grandifolius were significantly different from those on S. antarctica at 18 m depth but not at 9 m depth, indicating that the host species can be but is not always more important than site in influencing the gastropod assemblages.
Foraging strategies in gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) have been well studied (e.g. Croxall et al. 1988, Robinson & Hindell 1996, Lescroël et al. 2004, Takahashi et al. 2008, Xavier et al. 2017). The general consensus is this largest member of the three pygoscelid penguins displays both nearshore benthic and pelagic foraging tactics to consume combinations of crustaceans and fish. In a recent study, Carpenter-Kling et al. (2017) reported that gentoos at sub-Antarctic Marion Island displayed a novel foraging strategy that consisted of alternating typical lengthy foraging trips with much shorter nearshore afternoon trips. They suggest the latter foraging behaviour may be a response to suboptimal feeding conditions caused by local environmental change. This novel discovery reinforces the fact that, despite considerable study, not all foraging tactics in penguins have been documented. In this paper, we describe what we believe to be, yet another undocumented foraging tactic employed by gentoos.
The shallow benthos along the western Antarctic Peninsula supports brown macroalgal forests with dense amphipod assemblages, commonly including Gondogeneia antarctica (Amsler et al. 2014). Gondogeneia antarctica and most other amphipods are chemically deterred from consuming the macroalgae (Amsler et al. 2014). They primarily consume diatoms, other microalgae, filamentous macroalgae and a few undefended macroalgal species, including Palmaria decipiens (Aumack et al. 2017). Although unpalatable when alive, G. antarctica and other amphipods will consume the chemically defended brown algae Himantothallus grandifolius and Desmarestia anceps within a few weeks of death (Amsler et al. 2014).
Chemically defended benthic macroalgae that dominate shallow, hard bottom communities along the western Antarctic Peninsula support very high densities of mesograzers, particularly amphipods but also small gastropods. Previous studies have demonstrated that the macroalgae and amphipods form a mutualistic relationship. The chemically defended macroalgae provide the amphipods with a refuge from predation while the macroalgae benefit from the amphipods greatly reducing surface fouling by smaller algae. One of the three most important macroalgae in terms of overstory cover, Himantothallus grandifolius, forms huge blades that can carpet the benthos. Field observations suggest that gastropods may be higher in relative abundance in proportion to amphipods on H. grandifolius than on other overstory macroalgae. The present study documents the finding that natural abundances of gastropods on H. grandifolius maintained in mesocosms reduce fouling by microscopic algae, primarily diatoms. However, amphipods are probably also important in keeping the macroalga clean of diatoms in nature. In a smaller scale experiment, three gastropod species were differentially effective at reducing diatom coverage on H. grandifolius. The hypothesis that gastropods benefit from associating with H. grandifolius in potentially gaining a refuge from sea-star predation was also tested but not supported by the experimental results.
The Antarctic fish fauna from outer continental shelf/upper slope depths is under-sampled compared to that of the inner shelf, and there are limited quantitative data available on absolute abundance and taxonomic change with depth. A photographic survey of demersal fishes was conducted along a depth-gradient of 400–2099 m on the outer shelf and upper slope west of Anvers Island, Palmer Archipelago. A total of 1490 fishes were identified at least to the family level. Notothenioids composed 52.7% of absolute abundance and non-notothenioids 47.3%. The most abundant families were Nototheniidae (39.4%), followed by Macrouridae (28.9%), Zoarcidae (16.9%), and Channichthyidae (12.1%). The most abundant species were the notothenioids Lepidonotothen squamifrons (30.5%) and Chionobathyscus dewitti (11.7%), and the non-notothenioid Macrourus spp. (29.5%). The absolute abundance of all fishes peaked at 400–599 m. Depths of maximum abundance were 400–599 m for L. squamifrons, 700–1499 m for Macrourus spp., and 900–1499 for C. dewitti. At 700–999 m the abundance shifted from primarily notothenioids to the non-notothenioids Macrourus spp. and zoarcids. Fishes of the outer shelf and upper slope are not provincialized like those of the inner shelf and are circum-Antarctic.
We reviewed photographic images of fishes from depths of 381–2282 m in Marguerite Bay and 405–2007 m in the Amundsen Sea. Marguerite Bay fishes were 33% notothenioids and 67% non-notothenioids. Channichthyids (47%) and nototheniids (44%) were the most abundant notothenioids. The deep-living channichthyid Chionobathyscus dewitti (74%) and the nototheniid genus Trematomus (66%) were the most abundant taxa within these two families. The most abundant non-notothenioids were the macrourid Macrourus whitsoni (72%) and zoarcids (18%). Amundsen Sea fishes were 87% notothenioids and 13% non-notothenioids, the latter exclusively Macrourus whitsoni. Bathydraconids (38%) and artedidraconids (30%) were the most abundant notothenioids. We observed that Macrourus whitsoni was benthopelagic and benthic and infested by large ectoparasitic copepods. Juvenile (42 cm) Dissostichus mawsoni was not neutrally buoyant and resided on the substrate at 1277 m. Lepidonotothen squamifrons was seen near and on nests of eggs in early December. A Pogonophryne sp. from 2127 m was not a member of the deep-living unspotted P. albipinna group. Chionobathyscus dewitti inhabited the water column as well as the substrate. The pelagic zoarcid Melanostigma gelatinosum was documented in the water column a few metres above the substrate. The zoogeographic character of the Marguerite Bay fauna was West Antarctic or low-Antarctic and the Amundsen Sea was East Antarctic or high-Antarctic.
Echinoderms are well represented in nearshore hard-bottom (< 100 m depth) habitats along the Antarctic Peninsula where they are presumably important contributors to benthic production, carbon flow, and determinants of community structure. The present study assesses the densities of echinoderms at shallow depths (2–15 m) at five sampling sites within three kilometres of Anvers Island on the central western Antarctic Peninsula. The asteroids Odontaster validus, Granaster nutrix, Lysasterias perrieri and Adelasterias papillosa, two ophiuroids in the Amphiuridae, the holothuroids Psolicrux coatsi and Psolus carolineae and one representative of the Cucumaridae, and the regular echinoid Sterechinus neumayeri were enumerated. Mean total echinoderm densities were high (34.9 individuals m-2) and ranged from 21.9 individuals m-2 for asteroids to 2.7 individuals m-2 for holothuroids. With the exception of a positive relationship between the abundance of the regular echinoid Sterechinus neumayeri and the biomass of the brown alga Himanthothallus grandifolius, no significant relationships were found between the abundance of asteroids, ophiuroids, or holothuroids and two species of brown algae or three algal ecotypes. The present study indicates nearshore hard-bottom echinoderms are important in the carbon cycle and their inherent vulnerability to ocean acidification may have community-level impacts.
Gut contents studies have shown that Notothenia coriiceps, a prevalent shallow water fish species along the western Antarctic Peninsula, has a highly variable diet. This variability, coupled with small home ranges, suggest that microhabitat may play a role in determining the chief prey items of N. coriiceps. We trapped fish from three sites comprised of two different algal microhabitats around Palmer Station, Antarctica and investigated their diets via gut contents and stable isotope analyses. Gut contents analysis revealed that amphipods were the primary prey item at all three sites, but the distribution of amphipod species eaten varied between sites. Other important prey classes were snails, limpets, algae and fish. Overall, the gut content data suggested that algal microhabitat was less important than geographic location in determining diet. On the other hand, stable isotope analysis indicated that fish from the Palmaria decipiens site were more enriched in both carbon and nitrogen than fish from Desmarestia menziesii sites. Hence, it would appear that in the longer term, algal microhabitat may influence fish diets and trophic relationships.
Antarctic calcified macroorganisms are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because many are weakly calcified, the dissolution rates of calcium carbonate are inversely related to temperature, and high latitude seas are predicted to become undersaturated in aragonite by the year 2100. We examined the post-mortem dissolution rates of aragonitic and calcitic shells from four species of Antarctic benthic marine invertebrates (two bivalves, one limpet, one brachiopod) and the thallus of a limpet shell-encrusting coralline alga exposed to acidified pH (7.4) or non-acidified pH (8.2) seawater at a constant temperature of 4°C. Within a period of only 14–35 days, shells of all four species held in pH 7.4 seawater had suffered significant dissolution. Despite calcite being 35% less soluble in seawater than aragonite, there was surprisingly, no consistent pattern of calcitic shells having slower dissolution rates than aragonitic shells. Outer surfaces of shells held in pH 7.4 seawater exhibited deterioration by day 35, and by day 56 there was exposure of aragonitic or calcitic prisms within the shell architecture of three of the macroinvertebrate species. Dissolution of coralline algae was confirmed by differences in weight loss in limpet shells with and without coralline algae. By day 56, thalli of the coralline alga held in pH 7.4 displayed a loss of definition of the conceptacle pores and cracking was evident at the zone of interface with limpet shells. Experimental studies are needed to evaluate whether there are adequate compensatory mechanisms in these and other calcified Antarctic benthic macroorganisms to cope with anticipated ocean acidification. In their absence, these organisms, and the communities they comprise, are likely to be among the first to experience the cascading impacts of ocean acidification.
Nearshore marine benthic algal communities along the western Antarctic Peninsula harbour extremely high densities of amphipods that probably play important roles in nutrient and energy flow. This study extends our evaluation of the importance of amphipods in the nearshore Antarctic Peninsular benthic communities and focuses on sponge associations. We found a mean density of 542 amphipods per litre (L) sponge for twelve species of ecologically dominant sponges. The highest mean density (1295 amphipods per L sponge) occurred with Dendrilla membranosa Pallas. The amphipod community associated with the 12 sponges was diverse (38 species), with mean species richness values ranging from two to eight species. Mean Shannon diversity indices (H’) ranged from 0.52 to 1.49. Amphipods did not appear to have obligate host relationships. Qualitative gut content analyses indicated that 12 of the 38 amphipod species were found with sponge spicules in their guts. However, only one of the amphipods, Echiniphimedia hodgsoni Walker, had considerable amounts of spicules in the gut. Organic lipophilic and hydrophilic extracts of the twelve sponges were presented in alginate food disks to a sympatric omnivorous amphipod in feeding bioassays and extracts of only two sponges deterred feeding.
In the United States there has been a move afoot to try to stimulate federally funded investigators to explore meaningful ways of communicating their scientific activities through educational outreach programs. The goal is to help improve the quality of mathematics and science education in both early and secondary education. Dr Rita Colwell, the current Director of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), feels strongly that the time has come for higher education to do its part to help improve precollege science education, a persistent problem in the United States and many other industrialized countries. After all, institutions of higher education stand to benefit by seeing students enter college with sound fundamental science skills, and the taxpayers, who ultimately fund national science programs, benefit from an economy fuelled by both renewed and improved scientific talent.
The brooded embryos and/or juveniles of the sea stars Neosmilaster georgianus (Studer, 1885) and Lysasterias perrieri (Studer, 1885) and the isopod Glyptonotus antarcticus (Eights, 1853) were examined for their acceptability using the sympatric sea star Odontaster validus (Koehler, 1906) as a predator. Organic extracts were prepared from embryos of both sea stars and juveniles of Lyasterias perrieri and Glyptonotus antarcticus and tested in alginate food pellets to confirm whether lack of acceptability was chemically based. We found both intact whole embryos and juveniles of the sea star Neosmilaster georgianus were not acceptable to Odontaster validus. A methanol extract of the embryos was palatable. This could be the result of either the sequestration of deterrent chemicals within embryos or the presence of noxious compounds that were not extractable in methanol. Embryos and juveniles of the sea star Lysasterias perrieri were not acceptable to sea stars. Food pellets containing methanol extracts of unacceptable embryos were deterrent against sea stars, suggesting a chemical defence. Juvenile brooded isopods (Glyptonotus antarcticus) were also found to be unacceptable in sea star feeding bioassays. Significant rejection of alginate pellets containing a lipophilic dichloromethane methanol extract of juveniles indicated that this lack of acceptability was chemically based. Our study provides further support for chemical defences in the offspring of brooding lecithotrophic Antarctic marine invertebrates.
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