Hoban et al. 2023

scientific article | Mol Ecol

Plumbing the depths with environmental DNA (eDNA): Metabarcoding reveals biodiversity zonation at 45–60 m on mesophotic coral reefs

Hoban ML, Bunce M, Bowen BW


Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) are tropical reefs found at depths of ~30–150 m, below the region most heavily impacted by heat stress and other disturbances. Hence, MCEs may serve as potential refugia for threatened shallow reefs, but they also harbour depth-endemic fauna distinct from shallow reefs. Previous studies have characterized biodiversity patterns along depth gradients, but focussed primarily on conspicuous taxa (fishes, corals, etc.). Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding offers a more holistic approach to assess biodiversity patterns across the tree of life. Here, we use three metabarcoding assays targeting fishes (16S rRNA), eukaryotes (18S rDNA) and metazoans (COI) to assess biodiversity change from the surface to ~90 m depth across 15-m intervals at three sites within the Hawaiian Archipelago. We observed significant community differences between most depth zones, with distinct zonation centred at 45–60 m for eukaryotes and metazoans, but not for fishes. This finding may be attributable to the higher mobility of reef fishes, although methodological limitations are likely a contributing factor. The possibility for MCEs to serve as refugia is not excluded for fishes, but invertebrate communities >45 m are distinct, indicating limited connectivity for the majority of reef fauna. This study provides a new approach for surveying biodiversity on MCEs, revealing patterns in a much broader context than the limited-taxon studies that comprise the bulk of our present knowledge.

Depth range
0- 90 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
71 x (total of 8684 words)

* Presents original data
* Focused on 'mesophotic coral ecosystem'

Community structure

Other invertebrates

USA - Hawaii


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