Epifaunal Assemblages on Deep-water Corals in Roatan, Honduras
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Deep-water corals provide complex habitat structure for diverse assemblages of invertebrates and fishes. Similar to shallow coral reefs, oyster reefs, and seagrass beds, these complex biogenic structures serve many ecosystem functions: (a) as prey items; (b) sites for reproduction; (c) feeding stations, elevating suspension feeders above the benthos; and (d) refuges from predation. Because deep-sea corals provide some of the only three-dimensional habitats in the deep-sea, they may host distinct assemblages of epifauna. Non-destructive video surveys of deep-water coral assemblages were made to depths of 700 m at eight sites off Roatan, Honduras in May and December, 2011. Abundance, species richness, and distribution of epifauna were measured for 305 corals. We observed sixteen morphospecies of coral and twenty-six morphospecies of epifauna. Coral and epifaunal abundances were highest in the 335-449 m depth zone. Some epifauna had high fidelity for a single coral species or for a few species of similar morphological complexity. Other coral species had overlapping assemblages of habitat generalists. This is the first research on the biodiversity of deep-sea coral communities in Roatan, Honduras, and provides information on the assemblages, their depth distributions and ecological interactions.
Lavelle, Katherine (2012). Epifaunal Assemblages on Deep-water Corals in Roatan, Honduras. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from