Metabolic Niches and Biodiversity: A Test Case in the Deep Sea Benthos

Last modified: 
May 12, 2020 - 6:02pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2020
Date published: 04/2020
Authors: Craig McClain, Thomas Webb, Clifton Nunnally, River Dixon, Seth Finnegan, James Nelson
Journal title: Frontiers in Marine Science
Volume: 7

The great anthropogenic alterations occurring to carbon availability in the oceans necessitate an understanding of the energy requirements of species and how changes in energy availability may impact biodiversity. The deep-sea floor is characterized naturally by extremely low availability of chemical energy and is particularly vulnerable to changes in carbon flux from surface waters. Because the energetic requirements of organisms impact nearly every aspect of their ecology and evolution, we hypothesize that species are adapted to specific levels of carbon availability and occupy a particular metabolic niche. We test this hypothesis in deep-sea, benthic invertebrates specifically examining how energetic demand, axes of the metabolic niche, and geographic range size vary over gradients of chemical energy availability. We find that benthic invertebrates with higher energetic expenditures, and ecologies associated with high energy demand, are located in areas with higher chemical energy availability. In addition, we find that range size and location of deep-sea, benthic species is determined by geographic patterns in chemical energy availability. Our findings indicate that species may be adapted to specific energy regimes, and the metabolic niche can potentially link scales from individuals to ecosystems as well as adaptation to patterns in biogeography and biodiversity.

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