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Deep-sea biogeography: The way forward

George D.F. (Buz) Wilson, Ph.D.
Australian Museum

Friday, October 11, 2002
12:00 p.m.
Pacific Forum

Studies of organismal distributions in the deep sea often use ecological concepts and avoid the evolutionary processes that generated the biodiversity of this vast and continuous ecosystem. Background knowledge and assumptions influence both ecology and systematics in evaluating abyssal biodiversity. For example, isopod species in the manganese nodule-covered abyssal hills of the central Pacific change rapidly with distance, while polychaete species change much more slowly. Are these results caused by differing evolutionary tendencies in the taxa or by differing abilities to identify terminal taxa or species? Once species units are established, or at least accepted, understanding their distribution is the next step. Empirical cladistic methods can assist the understanding of processes that generate the diversity seen in the deep sea. Data from deep-sea isopods in the North Atlantic suggest that analysis of historical patterns of distribution might be tractable. This analysis is preliminary. Cladograms and distributions from different taxa are needed to assess congruence that might uncover the historical patterns.

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