Ascidians (Tunicata, Ascidiacea): species distribution along the Scotia Arc
Keywords:Tunicata, Scotia Arc, Polar Front, biogeography
Ascidians are found in all the oceans. The Polar Front is considered a strong barrier, especially for benthic organisms, separating the Southern Ocean from other oceans. Its influence on ascidian species present at the boundary of the Magellan and Antarctic regions along the Scotia Arc and on the species composition at each station is inferred from the samples taken during the “LAMPOS” cruise. Ascidians were collected by Agassiz (AGT) and bottom (GSN) trawls at depths between 250 and 587 m on different types of substrate. Of 25 identified species/morphospecies one is new and eight were found in new localities, enlarging the known range of five of these species. Muddy bottoms were found to support higher species richness than hard bottoms, and the South Georgia Islands are found to be the northern limit for Antarctic species and the southern limit for Magellan ones. Affinity between the ascidian fauna of the Magellan region and the Antarctic is slightly stronger than was previously considered; there is also a species gradient along the Scotia Arc, which can be regarded as a bridge between the two regions.
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