skip to main content

Title: Vertical gradients in species richness and community composition across the twilight zone in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Although metazoan animals in the mesopelagic zone play critical roles in deep pelagic food webs and in the attenuation of carbon in midwaters, the diversity of these assemblages is not fully known. A metabarcoding survey of mesozooplankton diversity across the epipelagic, mesopelagic and upper bathypelagic zones (0–1500 m) in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre revealed far higher estimates of species richness than expected given prior morphology‐based studies in the region (4,024OTUs, 10‐fold increase), despite conservative bioinformatic processing. Operational taxonomic unit (OTU) richness of the full assemblage peaked at lower epipelagic–upper mesopelagic depths (100–300 m), with slight shoaling of maximal richness at night due to diel vertical migration, in contrast to expectations of a deep mesopelagic diversity maximum as reported for several plankton groups in early systematic and zoogeographic studies. Four distinct depth‐stratified species assemblages were identified, with faunal transitions occurring at 100 m, 300 m and 500 m. Highest diversity occurred in the smallest zooplankton size fractions (0.2–0.5 mm), which had significantly lower %OTUs classified due to poor representation in reference databases, suggesting a deep reservoir of poorly understood diversity in the smallest metazoan animals. A diverse meroplankton assemblage also was detected (350OTUs), including larvae of both shallow and deep living benthic species. Our results provide some of the first insights into the hidden diversity present in zooplankton assemblages in midwaters, and a molecular reappraisal of vertical gradients in species richness, depth distributions and community composition for the full zooplankton assemblage across the epipelagic, mesopelagic and upper bathypelagic zones.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Molecular Ecology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 6136-6156
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Due to historical under‐sampling of the deep ocean, the distributional ranges of mesopelagic zooplankton are not well documented, leading to uncertainty about the mechanisms that shape midwater zooplankton community composition. Using a combination of DNA metabarcoding (18S‐V4 and mtCOI) and trait‐based analysis, we characterized zooplankton diversity and community composition in the upper 1000 m of the northeast Pacific Ocean. We tested whether the North Pacific Transition Zone is a biogeographic boundary region for mesopelagic zooplankton. We also tested whether zooplankton taxa occupying different vertical habitats and exhibiting different ecological traits differed in the ranges of temperature, Chl‐a, and dissolved oxygen conditions inhabited. The depth of the maximum taxonomic richness deepened with increasing latitude in the North Pacific. Community similarity in the mesopelagic zone also increased in comparison with the epipelagic zone, and no evidence was found for a biogeographic boundary between previously delineated mesopelagic biogeochemical provinces. Epipelagic zooplankton exhibited broader temperature and Chl‐aranges than mesopelagic taxa. Within the epipelagic, taxa with broader temperature and Chl‐aranges also had broader distributional ranges. However, mesopelagic taxa were distributed across wider dissolved oxygen ranges, and within the mesopelagic, only oxygen ranges covaried with distributional ranges. Environmental and distributional ranges also varied among traits, both for epipelagic taxa and mesopelagic taxa. The strongest differences in both environmental and distributional ranges were observed for taxa with or without diel vertical migration behavior. Our results suggest that species traits can influence the differential effects of physical dispersal and environmental selection in shaping biogeographic distributions.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Testate (shell‐building) amoebae, such as the Arcellinida (Amoebozoa), are useful bioindicators for climate change. Though past work has relied on morphological analyses to characterize Arcellinida diversity, genetic analyses revealed the presence of multiple cryptic species underlying morphospecies. Here, we design and deploy Arcellinida‐specific primers for theSSUrDNAgene to assess the community composition on the molecular level in a pilot study of two samplings from a New England fen: (1) 36‐cm horizontal transects and vertical cores; and (2) 26‐m horizontal transects fractioned into four size classes (2–10, 10–35, 35–100, and 100–300 μm). Analyses of these data show the following: (1) a considerable genetic diversity within Arcellinida, much of which comes from morphospecies lacking sequences on GenBank; (2) communities characterized byDNA(i.e. active + quiescent) are distinct from those characterized byRNA(i.e. active, indicator of biomass); (3) active communities on the surface tend to be more similar to one another than to core communities, despite considerable heterogeneity; and (4) analyses of communities fractioned by size find some lineages (OTUs) that are abundant in disjunct size categories, suggesting the possibility of life‐history stages. Together, these data demonstrate the potential of these primers to elucidate the diversity of Arcellinida communities in diverse habitats.

    more » « less
  3. Sergio Stefanni (Ed.)

    Zooplankton diversity in the deep “midnight zone” (>1000 m), where sunlight does not reach, remains largely unknown. Uncovering such diversity has been challenging because of the major difficulties in sampling deep pelagic fauna and identifying many (unknown) species that belong to these complex swimmer assemblages. In this study, we evaluated zooplankton diversity using two taxonomic marker genes: mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI) and nuclear 18S ribosomal RNA (18S). We collected samples from plankton net tows, ranging from the surface to a depth of 5000 m above the Atacama Trench in the Southeast Pacific. Our study aimed to assess the zooplankton diversity among layers from the upper 1000 m to the ultra-deep abyssopelagic zone to test the hypothesis of decreasing diversity with depth resulting from limited carbon sources. The results showed unique, highly vertically structured communities within the five depth strata sampled, with maximal species richness observed in the upper bathypelagic layer (1000–2000 m). The high species richness of zooplankton (>750 OTUS) at these depths was higher than that found in the upper 1000 m. The vertical diversity trend exhibited a pattern similar to the well-known vertical pattern described for the benthic system. However, a large part of this diversity was either unknown (>50%) or could not be assigned to any known species in current genetic diversity databases. DNA analysis showed that the Calanoid copepods, mostly represented bySubeucalanus monachus, the Euphausiacea,Euphausia mucronata, and the halocypridade,Paraconchoecia dasyophthalma, dominated the community. Water column temperature, dissolved oxygen, particulate carbon, and nitrogen appeared to be related to the observed vertical diversity pattern. Our findings revealed rich and little-known zooplankton diversity in the deep sea, emphasizing the importance of further exploration of this ecosystem to conserve and protect its unique biota.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Increasing deoxygenation (loss of oxygen) of the ocean, including expansion of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), is a potentially important consequence of global warming. We examined present-day variability of vertical distributions of 23 calanoid copepod species in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific (ETNP) living in locations with different water column oxygen profiles and OMZ intensity (lowest oxygen concentration and its vertical extent in a profile). Copepods and hydrographic data were collected in vertically stratified day and night MOCNESS (Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System) tows (0–1000 m) during four cruises over a decade (2007– 2017) that sampled four ETNP locations: Costa Rica Dome, Tehuantepec Bowl, and two oceanic sites further north (21– 22 N) off Mexico. The sites had different vertical oxygen profiles: some with a shallow mixed layer, abrupt thermocline, and extensive very low oxygen OMZ core; and others with a more gradual vertical development of the OMZ (broad mixed layer and upper oxycline zone) and a less extensive OMZ core where oxygen was not as low. Calanoid copepod species (including examples from the genera Eucalanus, Pleuromamma, and Lucicutia) demonstrated different distributional strategies (implying different physiological characteristics) associated with this variability. We identified sets of species that (1) changed their vertical distributions and depth of maximum abundance associated with the depth and intensity of the OMZ and its oxycline inflection points; (2) shifted their depth of diapause; (3) adjusted their diel vertical migration, especially the nighttime upper depth; or (4) expanded or contracted their depth range within the mixed layer and upper part of the thermocline in association with the thickness of the aerobic epipelagic zone (habitat compression concept). These distribution depths changed by tens to hundreds of meters depending on the species, oxygen profile, and phenomenon. For example, at the lower oxycline, the depth of maximum abundance for Lucicutia hulsemannae shifted from  600 to  800 m, and the depth of diapause for Eucalanus inermis shifted from  500 to  775 m, in an expanded OMZ compared to a thinner OMZ, but remained at similar low oxygen levels in both situations. These species or life stages are examples of “hypoxiphilic” taxa. For the migrating copepod Pleuromamma abdominalis, its nighttime depth was shallow ( 20 m) when the aerobic mixed layer was thin and the low-oxygen OMZ broad, but it was much deeper ( 100 m) when the mixed layer and higher oxygen extended deeper; daytime depth in both situations was  300 m. Because temperature decreased with depth, these distributional depth shifts had metabolic implications. The upper ocean to mesopelagic depth range encompasses a complex interwoven ecosystem characterized by intricate relationships among its inhabitants and their environment. It is a critically important zone for oceanic biogeochemical and export processes and hosts key food web components for commercial fisheries. Among the zooplankton, there will likely be winners and losers with increasing ocean deoxygenation as species cope with environmental change. Changes in individual copepod species abundances, vertical distributions, and life history strategies may create potential perturbations to these intricate food webs and processes. Present-day variability provides a window into future scenarios and potential effects of deoxygenation. 
    more » « less
  5. Midwater zooplankton are major agents of biogeochemical transformation in the open ocean; however their characteristics and activity remain poorly known. Here we evaluate midwater zooplankton biomass, amino acid (AA)-specific stable isotope composition (δ15N values) using compound-specific isotope analysis of amino acids (CSIA-AA), trophic position, and elemental composition in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG). We focus on zooplankton collected in the winter, spring, and summer to evaluate midwater trophic dynamics over a seasonal cycle. For the first time we find that midwater zooplankton respond strongly to seasonal changes in production and export in the NPSG. In summer, when export from the euphotic zone is elevated and this ‘summer pulse’ material is transported rapidly to depth, CSIA-AA indicates that large particles (> 53 μm) dominate the food web base for zooplankton throughout the midwaters, and to a large extent even into the upper bathypelagic zone. In winter, when export is low, zooplankton in the mid-mesopelagic zone continue to rely on large particle basal resources, but resident zooplankton in the lower mesopelagic and upper bathypelagic zones switch to include smaller particles (0.7–53 μm) in their food web base, or even a subset of the small particle pool. Midwater zooplankton migration patterns also vary with season, with migrants distributed more evenly at night through the euphotic zone in summer as compared to being more compressed in the upper mixed layer in winter. Deeper zooplankton migration within the mesopelagic zone is also reduced in late summer, likely due to the increased magnitude of large particle material available at depth during this season. Our observed seasonal change in activity and trophic dynamics drives modestly greater biomass in summer than winter through the mesopelagic zone. In contrast midwater zooplankton carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) composition does not change with season. Instead we find increasing C:N, C:P, and N:P ratios with greater depths, likely due to decreases in proteinaceous structures and organic P compounds and increases in storage lipids with depth. Our study highlights the importance and diversity of feeding strategies for small zooplankton in NPSG midwaters. Many small zooplankton, such as oncaeid and oithonid copepods, are able to access small particle resources at depth and may be an important trophic link between the microbial loop and deep dwelling micronekton species that also rely on small particle-based food webs. Our observed midwater zooplankton trophic response to export-driven variation in the particle field at depth has important implications for midwater metabolism and the export of C to the deep sea. 
    more » « less