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First insights into the biodiversity and biogeography of the Southern Ocean deep sea


Shallow marine benthic communities around Antarctica show high levels of endemism, gigantism, slow growth, longevity and late maturity, as well as adaptive radiations that have generated considerable biodiversity in some taxa1. The deeper parts of the Southern Ocean exhibit some unique environmental features, including a very deep continental shelf2 and a weakly stratified water column, and are the source for much of the deep water in the world ocean. These features suggest that deep-sea faunas around the Antarctic may be related both to adjacent shelf communities and to those in other oceans. Unlike shallow-water Antarctic benthic communities, however, little is known about life in this vast deep-sea region2,3. Here, we report new data from recent sampling expeditions in the deep Weddell Sea and adjacent areas (748–6,348 m water depth) that reveal high levels of new biodiversity; for example, 674 isopods species, of which 585 were new to science. Bathymetric and biogeographic trends varied between taxa. In groups such as the isopods and polychaetes, slope assemblages included species that have invaded from the shelf. In other taxa, the shelf and slope assemblages were more distinct. Abyssal faunas tended to have stronger links to other oceans, particularly the Atlantic, but mainly in taxa with good dispersal capabilities, such as the Foraminifera. The isopods, ostracods and nematodes, which are poor dispersers, include many species currently known only from the Southern Ocean. Our findings challenge suggestions that deep-sea diversity is depressed in the Southern Ocean and provide a basis for exploring the evolutionary significance of the varied biogeographic patterns observed in this remote environment.

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Figure 1: Station map.
Figure 2: Selected important ANDEEP taxa.
Figure 3: Isopod phylogenetic relationships and multiple colonizations of the deep sea.
Figure 4: Phylogenetic relationships of deep-sea foraminifera.


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Financial support for the ANDEEP I–III expeditions was provided by the German Science Foundation. We are also grateful for support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and UK Natural Environment Research Council. S.N.B. received financial support from the DAAD, CAPES, Scar and Synthesys. We thank L. Excoffier, J. Fahrni, J. Guiard, D. Longet and B. Lecroq for help in obtaining the foraminiferal sequence data. We are grateful to D. Fütterer, chief scientist on Polarstern cruise ANT XIX/3-4, and E. Fahrbach, chief scientist on Polarstern cruise ANT XXII/3, and to the captain and crew of RV Polarstern, for help on board. The DZMB is thanked for financial support of sorting animals from samples and for a research grant for F. Kavanagh, who kindly identified the ANDEEP III Ischnomesidae (Isopoda) and compared these with those species from ANDEEP I and II. We are grateful to many colleagues for constant help on board, helpful and stimulating discussions, and comments, which improved the manuscript. This is ANDEEP publication no. 85 and CAML publication no. 6. This publication also contributes to the CoML field project CeDAMar.

Author Contributions A.B. and A.J.G. assembled and wrote most of the text and were responsible for the theory. J.H. contributed to sedimentology and B. Diaz to sediment analysis, bioturbation and megafauna visible in underwater images. B. Danis and D.C.G. worked on archaebacteria. Foraminiferal data are from N.C., T.C., A.J.G. and J.P.; J.P. was responsible for the molecular work on the Foraminifera. I.D.M. and A.V. delivered the data for Nematoda. A.B., S.B., W.B., M.C., S.K. and M.M. were responsible for the isopod analysis, M.R. was mainly responsible for the molecular isopod data. S.N.B. was responsible for the Ostracoda, B.E. for the Polychaetes, K.L. for the Mollusca and D.J. for the Porifera analysis.

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Correspondence to Angelika Brandt.

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Brandt, A., Gooday, A., Brandão, S. et al. First insights into the biodiversity and biogeography of the Southern Ocean deep sea. Nature 447, 307–311 (2007).

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