Biodiversity of deep-sea demersal megafauna in western and central Mediterranean basins


  • Samuele Tecchio Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)
  • Eva Ramírez-Llodra Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)
  • Francisco Sardà Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)
  • Joan Baptista Company Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)



diversity, megafauna, deep sea, western Mediterranean, western Ionian, eastern Ionian


Abundance, biomass and diversity patterns of bathyal and abyssal Mediterranean megafauna (fishes and invertebrates) were analyzed in the western Balearic Sea, the western Ionian Sea and the eastern Ionian Sea. Sampling was conducted with a Otter-trawl Maireta System (OTMS) at depths ranging from 600 to 4000 m. A series of ecological indicators were computed: total abundance and biomass, Margalef species richness, Shannon-Wiener diversity and Pielou’s index of evenness. A multidimensional scaling was applied, indicating that the megafauna communities were grouped by depth, while geographic area had a less defined influence. Margalef richness declined with depth in all three areas, but more steeply in the western Ionian Sea. Pielou’s evenness behaved differently in the three zones, showing a V-shaped curve in the eastern Ionian while showing a decreasing pattern in the other two areas. At lower slope depths, massive presence of the fishes Alepocephalus rostratus in the western basin and Bathypterois mediterraneus in the central basin caused a sharp reduction in evenness.


Download data is not yet available.


Abelló, P., F.J. Valladares and A. Castellón. _ 1988. Analysis of the structure of decapod crustacean assemblages off the Catalan coast (North-West Mediterranean). Mar. Biol., 98: 39-49. doi:10.1007/BF00392657

Azov, Y. _ 1991. Eastern Mediterranean - a marine desert? Mar. Pollut. Bull., 23: 225-232. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(91)90679-M

Basso, D., J. Thomson and C. Corselli. _ 2004. Indications of low macrobenthic activity in the deep sediments of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 53-62.

Bethoux, J.P., B. Gentili, P. Morin, E. Nicolas, C. Pierre and D. Ruiz-Pino. _ 1999. The Mediterranean Sea: a miniature ocean for climatic and environmental studies and a key for the climatic functioning of the North Atlantic. Prog. Oceanogr., 44: 131-146. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(99)00023-3

Bianchi, C.N. and C. Morri. _ 2000. Marine biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: situation, problems and prospects for future research. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 40: 367-376. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(00)00027-8

Billett, D.S.M., B.J. Bett, A.L. Rice, M.H. Thurston, J. Galéron, M. Sibuet and G.A. Wolff. _ 2001. Long-term change in the megabenthos of the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (NE Atlantic). Prog. Oceanogr., 50: 325-348. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(01)00060-X

Canals, M., P. Puig, X. Durrieu de Madron, S. Heussner, A. Palanques and J. Fabres. _ 2006. Flushing submarine canyons. Nature, 444: 354-357. doi:10.1038/nature05271 PMid:17108962

Carrassón, M. and J.E. Cartes. _ 2002. Trophic relationships in a Mediterranean deep-sea fish community: partition of food resources, dietary overlap and connections within the benthic boundary layer. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 241: 41-55. doi:10.3354/meps241041

Carrassón, M. and J. Matallanas. _ 1998. Feeding habits of Alepocephalus rostratus (Pisces: Alepocephalidae) in the Western Mediterranean Sea. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK, 78: 1295-1306. doi:10.1017/S0025315400044507

Carrassón, M. and J. Matallanas. _ 2001. Feeding ecology of the Mediterranean spiderfish, Bathypterois mediterraneus (Pisces: Chlorophthalmidae), on the western Mediterranean slope. Fish. Bull., 99: 266-274.

Carrassón, M. and J. Matallanas. _ 2002. Diets of deep-sea macrourid fishes in the western Mediterranean. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 234: 215-228. doi:10.3354/meps234215

Carrassón, M., J. Matallanas and M. Casadevall. _ 1997. Feeding strategies of deep-water morids on the western Mediterranean slope. Deep-Sea Res. I, 44: 1685-1699. doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(97)00044-7

Cartes, J.E. and F. Sardà. _ 1993. Zonation of deep-sea decapod fauna in the Catalan Sea (Western Mediterranean). Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 94: 27-34. doi:10.3354/meps094027

Clarke, K.R. and R.M. Warwick. _ 2001. Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. PRIMER-E Ltd., Plymouth, UK.

Company, J.B., P. Maiorano, A. Tselepides, C.-Y. Politou, W. Plaity, G. Rotllant and F. Sardà. _ 2004. Deep-sea decapod crustaceans in the western and central Mediterranean Sea: preliminary aspects of species distribution, biomass and population structure. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 73-86.

Company, J.B., P. Puig, F. Sardà, A. Palanques, M. Latasa and R. Scharek. _ 2008. Climate influence on deep sea populations. PLoS ONE. 3: e1431. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001431 PMid:18197243    PMCid:2174526

Company, J.B. and F. Sardà. _ 2000. Growth parameters of deep-water decapod crustaceans in the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea: a comparative approach. Mar. Biol., 136: 79-90. doi:10.1007/s002270050011

Company, J.B., F. Sardà, P. Puig, J.E. Cartes and A. Palanques. _ 2003. Duration and timing of reproduction in decapod crustaceans of the NW Mediterranean continental margin: is there a general pattern? Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 261: 201-216. doi:10.3354/meps261201

Corliss, B.H., C.W. Brown, X. Sun and W.J. Showers. _ 2009. Deep-sea benthic diversity linked to seasonality of pelagic productivity. Deep-Sea Res. I, 56: 835-841. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2008.12.009

D’Onghia, G., D. Lloris, L. Sion, F. Capezzuto and M. Labropoulou. _ 2004a. Observations on the distribution, population structure and biology of Bathypterois mediterraneus Bauchot, 1962 in three areas of the Mediterranean Sea. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 163-170.

D’Onghia, G., C.-Y. Politou, A. Bozzano, D. Lloris, G. Rotllant, L. Sion and F. Mastrototaro. _ 2004b. Deep-water fish assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 87-99.

D’Onghia, G., A. Tursi, P. Maiorano, A. Matarrese and M. Panza. _ 1998. Demersal fish assemblages from the bathyal grounds of the Ionian Sea (middle-eastern Mediterranean). Ital. J. Zool., 65: 287-292. doi:10.1080/11250009809386834

Danovaro, R., J.B. Company, C. Corinaldesi, G. D’Onghia, B.S. Galil, C. Gambi, A.J. Gooday, N. Lampadariou, G.M. Luna, C. Morigi, K. Olu, P. Polymenakou, E. Ramírez-Llodra, A. Sabbatini, F. Sardà, M. Sibuet and A. Tselepides. _ 2010. Deep-sea biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea: The known, the unknown, and the unknowable. PLoS ONE. 5(8): e11832. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011832 PMid:20689848    PMCid:2914020

Danovaro, R., A. Dell’Anno, M. Fabiano, A. Pusceddu and A. Tselepides. _ 2001. Deep-sea ecosystem response to climate changes: the eastern Mediterranean case study. Trends Ecol. Evol., 16: 505-510. doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(01)02215-7

Danovaro, R., A. Dinet, G. Duineveld and A. Tselepides. _ 1999. Benthic response to particulate fluxes in different trophic environments: a comparison between the Gulf of Lions–Catalan Sea (western-Mediterranean) and the Cretan Sea (eastern-Mediterranean). Prog. Oceanogr., 44: 287-312. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(99)00030-0

Dayton, P.K. and R.R. Hessler. _ 1972. Role of biological disturbance in maintaining diversity in the deep sea. Deep-Sea Res., 19: 199-208.

European Union. _ Council Regulation (EC) No 1967/2006 of 21 December 2006, concerning management measures for the sustainable exploitation of fishery resources in the Mediterranean Sea. Official Journal of the European Union, L 409/11.

Gage, J.D. and P.A. Tyler. _ 1991. Deep-sea biology: a natural history of organisms at the deep-sea floor. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Galil, B.S., A. Golik and M. Türkay. _ 1995. Litter at the bottom of the sea: a sea bed survey in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 30: 22-24. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(94)00103-G

Jones, E.G., A. Tselepides, P.M. Bagley, M.A. Collins and I.G. Priede. _ 2003. Bathymetric distribution of some benthic and benthopelagic species attracted to baited cameras and traps in the deep eastern Mediterranean. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 251: 75-86. doi:10.3354/meps251075

Kallianiotis, A., K. Sophronidis, P. Vidoris and A. Tselepides. _ 2000. Demersal fish and megafaunal assemblages on the Cretan continental shelf and slope (NE Mediterranean): seasonal variation in species density, biomass and diversity. Prog. Oceanogr., 46: 429-455. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(00)00028-8

Kitsos, M.-S., S. Doulgeraki, A. Tselepides and A. Koukouras. _ 2005. Diet composition of the bathyal crabs, Chaceon mediterraneus Manning and Holthuis and Geryon longipes A. Milne-Edwards (Decapoda, Geryonidae) collected at different depths in the eastern Mediterranean. Crustaceana, 78(2): 171-184. doi:10.1163/1568540054020569

Lampadariou, N., A. Tselepides and E. Hatziyanni. _ 2009. Deep-sea meiofaunal and foraminiferal communities along a gradient of primary productivity in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Sci. Mar., 73 (2): 337-345. doi:10.3989/scimar.2009.73n2337

Magurran, A.E. _ 2004. Measuring biological diversity. Blackwell Science.

Margalef, R. _ 1958. Information theory in ecology. Gen. Syst., 3: 36-71.

Massutí, E., J.D.M. Gordon, J. Moranta, S.C. Swan, C. Stefanescu and N.R. Merrett. _ 2004. Mediterranean and Atlantic deep-sea fish assemblages: differences in biomass composition and size-related structure. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 101-115.

Massutí, E., B. Morales-Nin and D. Lloris. _ 1996. Bathymetric distribution and recruitment patterns of Phycis blennoides (Pisces: Gadidae) from the slope of the northwestern Mediterranean. Sci. Mar., 60 (4): 481-488.

Maynou, F. and J.E. Cartes. _ 2000. Community structure of bathyal decapod crustaceans off south-west Balearic Islands (western Mediterranean): seasonality and regional patterns in zonation. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK, 80: 789-798. doi:10.1017/S0025315400002769

Merrett, N.R. and R.L. Haedrich. _ 1997. Deep-sea demersal fish and fisheries. Chapman and Hall, London.

Miller, A.R., P. Tchernia and H. Charnock. _ 1970. Mediterranean Sea Atlas of temperature, salinity, oxigen, profiles and data from cruises of R.V. Atlantis and R.V. Chain. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachussetts.

Morales-Nin, B., E. Massutí and C. Stefanescu. _ 1996a. Bathymetric distribution and growth patterns of Bathypterois mediterraneus from the north-western Mediterranean Sea. J. Fish. Biol., 49(A): 276-288.

Morales-Nin, B., E. Massutí and C. Stefanescu. _ 1996b. Distribution and biology of Alepocephalus rostratus from the Mediterranean Sea. J. Fish. Biol., 48: 1097-1112.

Moranta, J., C. Stefanescu, E. Massutí, B. Morales-Nin and D. Lloris. _ 1998. Fish community structure and depth-related trends on the continental slope of the Balearic Islands (Algerian basin, western Mediterranean) Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 171: 247-259. doi:10.3354/meps171247

Mytilineou, C., C.-Y. Politou, C. Papaconstantinou, S. Kavadas, G. D’Onghia and L. Sion. _ 2005. Deep-water fish fauna in the Eastern Ionian Sea. Belg. J. Zool., 135: 229-233.

Pérès, J.M. _ 1985. History of the Mediterranean biota and colonization of the depths. In: R. Margalef (ed.), Western Mediterranean, pp. 198-232. Pergamon Press, Oxford.

Pielou, E.C. _ 1966. The measurement of diversity in different types of biological collections. J. Theor. Biol., 13: 131-144. doi:10.1016/0022-5193(66)90013-0

Politou, C.-Y., K. Kapiris, P. Maiorano, F. Capezzuto and J. Dokos. _ 2004. Deep-sea Mediterranean biology: the case of Aristaeomorpha foliacea (Risso, 1827) (Crustacea: Decapoda: Aristeidae). Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 129-139.

Politou, C.-Y., P. Maiorano, G. D’Onghia and C. Mytilineou. _ 2005. Deep-water decapod crustacean fauna of the Eastern Ionian Sea. Belg. J. Zool., 135: 235-241.

Psarra, S., A. Tselepides and L. Ignatiades. _ 2000. Primary productivity in the oligotrophic Cretan Sea (NE Mediterranean): seasonal and interannual variability. Prog. Oceanogr., 46: 187-204. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(00)00018-5

Puig, P., J.B. Company, F. Sardà and A. Palanques. _ 2001. Responses of deep-water shrimp populations to intermediate nepheloid layer detachments on the Northwestern Mediterranean continental margin. Deep-Sea Res. I, 48: 2195-2207. doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(01)00016-4

Ramírez-Llodra, E., M. Ballesteros, J.B. Company, L. Dantart and F. Sardà. _ 2008. Spatio-temporal variations of biomass and abundance in bathyal non-crustacean megafauna in the Catalan Sea (North-western Mediterranean). Mar. Biol., 153: 297-309. doi:10.1007/s00227-007-0805-y

Ramírez-Llodra, E., J.B. Company, F. Sardà and G. Rotllant. _ 2010. Megabenthic diversity patterns and community structure of the Blanes submarine canyon and adjacent slope in the Northwestern Mediterranean: a human overprint? Mar. Ecol., 31: 167-182. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00336.x

Sanders, H.L. _ 1968. Marine benthic diversity: a comparative study. Am. Nat., 102: 243-282. doi:10.1086/282541

Sardà, F., J.E. Cartes and J.B. Company. _ 1994. Spatio-temporal variations in megabenthos abundance in three different habitats of the Catalan deep-sea (Western Mediterranean). Mar. Biol., 120: 211-219. doi:10.1007/BF00349681

Sardà, F., J.E. Cartes, J.B. Company and A. Albiol. _ 1998. A modified commercial trawl used to sample deep-sea megabenthos. Fish. Sci., 64: 492-493.

Sardà, F., A. Calafat, M. Flexas, A. Tselepides, M. Canals, M. Espino and A. Tursi. _ 2004a. An introduction to Mediterranean deep-sea biology. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 7-38.

Sardà, F., G. D’Onghia, C.-Y. Politou and A. Tselepides. _ 2004b. Mediterranean deep-sea biology. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 1-204.

Sardà, F., J.B. Company, G. Rotllant and M. Coll. _ 2009. Biological patterns and ecological indicators for Mediterranean fish and crustaceans below 1,000 m: a review. Rev. Fish Biol. Fish., 19: 329-347. doi:10.1007/s11160-009-9105-6

Shannon, C.H. _ 1948. A mathematical theory of communication. Bell Sys. Tech. J., 27: 623-656.

Sion, L., A. Bozzano, G. D’Onghia, F. Capezzuto and M. Panza. _ 2004. Chondrichthyes species in deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 153-162.

Smith, C.R., F.C. De Leo, A.F. Bernardino, A.K. Sweetman and P. Martinez Arbizu. _ 2008. Abyssal food limitation, ecosystem structure and climate change. Trends Ecol. Evol., 23: 518-528. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.05.002

Soltwedel, T., N. Jaeckisch, N. Ritter, C. Hasemann, M. Bergmann and M. Klages. _ 2009. Bathymetric patterns of megafaunal assemblages from the arctic deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN. Deep-Sea Res. I, 56: 1856-1872. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2009.05.012

Stefanescu, C., D. Lloris and J. Rucabado. _ 1993. Deep-sea fish assemblages in the Catalan sea (western Mediterranean) below a depth of 1000 m. Deep-Sea Res. I, 40: 695-707. doi:10.1016/0967-0637(93)90066-C

Stefanescu, C., J. Rucabado and D. Lloris. _ 1992. Depth-size trends in western Mediterranean demersal deep-sea fishes. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 81: 205-213. doi:10.3354/meps081205

Tselepides, A., N. Lampadariou and E. Hatziyanni. _ 2004. Distribution of meiobenthos at bathyal depths in the Mediterranean Sea. A comparison between sites of contrasting productivity. Sci. Mar., 68(Suppl. 3): 39-51.

Tyler, P.A. _ 2003. Ecosystems of the world (Ecosystems of the Deep Ocean). Elsevier, Amsterdam.




How to Cite

Tecchio S, Ramírez-Llodra E, Sardà F, Company JB. Biodiversity of deep-sea demersal megafauna in western and central Mediterranean basins. Sci. mar. [Internet]. 2011Jun.30 [cited 2024May26];75(2):341-50. Available from:




Most read articles by the same author(s)