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Biogeography and ecology of Ostracoda in the U.S. northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas

May 13, 2021

Ostracoda (bivalved Crustacea) comprise a significant part of the benthic meiofauna in the Pacific-Arctic region, including more than 50 species, many with identifiable ecological tolerances. These species hold potential as useful indicators of past and future ecosystem changes. In this study, we examined benthic ostracodes from nearly 300 surface sediment samples, >34,000 specimens, from three regions—the northern Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas—to establish species’ ecology and distribution. Samples were collected during various sampling programs from 1970 through 2018 on the continental shelves at 20 to ~100m water depth. Ordination analyses using species’ relative frequencies identified six species, Normanicythere leioderma, Sarsicytheridea bradii, Paracyprideis pseudopunctillata, Semicytherura complanata, Schizocythere ikeyai, and Munseyella mananensis, as having diagnostic habitat ranges in bottom water temperatures, salinities, sediment substrates and/or food sources. Species relative abundances and distributions can be used to infer past bottom environmental conditions in sediment archives for paleo-reconstructions and to characterize potential changes in Pacific-Arctic ecosystems in future sampling studies. Statistical analyses further showed ostracode assemblages grouped by the summer water masses influencing the area. Offshore-to-nearshore transects of samples across different water masses showed that complex water mass characteristics, such as bottom temperature, productivity, as well as sediment texture, influenced the relative frequencies of ostracode species over small spatial scales. On the larger biogeographic scale, synoptic ordination analyses showed dominant species—N. leioderma (Bering Sea), P. pseudopunctillata (offshore Chukchi and Beaufort Seas), and S. bradii (all regions)—remained fairly constant over recent decades. However, during 2013–2018, northern Pacific species M. mananensis and S. ikeyai increased in abundance by small but significant proportions in the Chukchi Sea region compared to earlier years. It is yet unclear if these assemblage changes signify a meiofaunal response to changing water mass properties and if this trend will continue in the future. Our new ecological data on ostracode species and biogeography suggest these hypotheses can be tested with future benthic monitoring efforts.

Publication Year 2021
Title Biogeography and ecology of Ostracoda in the U.S. northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0251164
Authors Laura Gemery, Thomas M. Cronin, Lee W. Cooper, Harry J. Dowsett, Jacqueline M. Grebmeier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Index ID 70220492
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center; Florence Bascom Geoscience Center