Scientia Marina, Vol 78, No 3 (2014)

Amphipods from marine cave sediments of the southern Iberian Peninsula: diversity and ecological distribution

Carlos Navarro-Barranco
Laboratorio de Biología Marina, Dpto. Zoología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla , Spain

José Manuel Guerra-García
Laboratorio de Biología Marina, Dpto. Zoología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla , Spain

Luis Sánchez-Tocino
Departamento de Biología Animal, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada , Spain

José Carlos García-Gómez
Laboratorio de Biología Marina, Dpto. Zoología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla , Spain


The present study explores the amphipod assemblages of six marine caves on the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain. Replicate samples were taken both inside and outside each marine cave in order to characterize the amphipod fauna and the physicochemical properties of the sediment. As a result, 44 amphipods species were identified. The high number of species found in a relatively limited area highlighted the richness of the Alboran Sea fauna, which is mainly due to the mixture of species from different biogeographic areas. Harpinia genus was the dominant amphipod taxa inside marine caves and Perioculodes longimanus was also very abundant in the caverns. On the other hand, external communities were dominated by Siphonoecetes sabatieri, Metaphoxus fultoni and Photis longipes. There was a high degree of variability in both the internal and the external stations. Only the external station situated at low-medium depth showed a relatively homogeneous amphipod assemblage. The structure and behaviour of soft-bottom communities inside marine caves is difficult to predict because their environmental conditions depend on a particular combination of factors such as topography, depth and orientation. Therefore, no constant patterns were observed for species richness, Shannon diversity and abundance of amphipods in marine caves in comparison with open habitats. According to canonical correspondence analysis, sediment granulometry, organic matter and nitrogen concentration were the parameters that best explained the distribution of amphipods. Species were also classified by their tolerance to environmental pollution according to criteria followed by the Azti Marine Biotic Index and the BENTIX index. The great abundance of sensitive species at both the internal and external stations indicates the good ecological quality of the soft bottom studied. However, the suitability of biotic indices in marine caves should be tested in future studies.


marine caves; soft-bottom communities; Amphipoda; benthic ecology; Mediterranean Sea

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