scientific chapter |
Bo M, Montgomery AD, Opresko DM, Wagner D, Bavestrello G
About 63% of the known antipatharian genera occur at mesophotic depths (30–150 m), with the majority extending into the deep sea. Along the continental shelf and offshore sites, antipatharians tend to increase in diversity and abundance with depth, reaching a peak at mesophotic depths due to favorable environmental factors enhancing their settlement and growth and biotic factors associated with lower levels of competition for space. A review of taxonomic and ecological studies for shallow and mesophotic antipatharians is presented for four regionally based case studies, three in the tropics (1) Central Indo-Pacific, plus adjacent sections of the Western Indo-Pacific, (2) Eastern Indo-Pacific (primarily Hawaiʻi), and (3) the Caribbean Sea) and one at temperate latitudes in the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent sections of the Northeast Atlantic. The mesophotic fauna is mainly represented by the families Antipathidae, Aphanipathidae, and Myriopathidae. The most diverse community is found in the Central/Western Indo-Pacific, followed by the Caribbean Sea. The tropical antipatharians are represented by shallow species that extend their distribution into the upper mesophotic zone (30–60 m), while the temperate antipatharians consist of deepwater (> 150 m) species that extend upward into the lower part of the mesophotic zone. Black corals in mesophotic coral ecosystems can be habitat-forming components of benthic assemblages on hard substratum. They have an enormous potential for hidden biodiversity and play an important ecological role for the broader marine ecosystem. The threats to antipatharians consist of demersal fishing activities and coral harvesting, which may be highly destructive to these poorly understood systems.