Discriminating zooplankton assemblages in neritic and oceanic waters: a case for the northeast coast of India, Bay of Bengal

M Rakhesh, A V Raman, D Sudarsan
Marine Environmental Research 2006, 61 (1): 93-109
Zooplankton species distribution and abundance data at 17 locations in the inshore (10-30 m), shelf (50-200 m) and oceanic (2,500-2,800 m) regions off northeast India (Bay of Bengal) during January 1999-April 2001 revealed 112 taxa represented by 30 divergent groups. Copepods (58 species) dominated (87%) the population numerically. In general zooplankton diversity (Margalef richness d, Shannon-Wiener H', Pielou's evenness J') increased in the direction of the open sea relative to coastal locations with a concomitant decrease both in abundance (ind m(-3)) and biomass (dry mass m(-3)). Based on multivariate analyses, it was possible to distinguish the zooplankton community into different assemblages according to their location (e.g., inshore, shelf, oceanic) and seasonality. While Acrocalanus sp., Oithona sp., Corycaeus danae, Euterpina acutifrons, Paracalanus sp., and Acartia sp. were found characterizing the coastal locations, Oncaea venusta was the discriminating species for shelf waters. In oceanic areas, there was a clear dominance of Labidocera sp., Candacia sp., Euchaeta rimana, Centropages calaninus, Copilia mirabilis and Corycella gibbula. The investigations revealed that changes in zooplankton community structure across water bodies could be associated with differing salinity. During November 1999 (post-monsoon), when salinity in the coastal waters was relatively low (26-28.9 PSU), the zooplankton community consisted of mainly Acrocalanus sp., Salpa, Corycaeus danae, Oikopleura sp., Acartia sp., Evadne tergestina, and Creseis sp. In January 2000 (salinity 32.4-34.1), additionally Corycella gibbula, Labidocera sp., Centropages sp., Microsetella sp., Euterpina acutifrons, Canthocalanus pauper, and Oncaea venusta represented the population discriminating the assemblage from others. In May 2000 (pre-monsoon) when salinity was highest (34.7-35.3), Oithona sp., Paracalanus sp., and Acrocalanus gibber were found important. Chaetognaths formed a distinct group during this period. Results presented during this investigation are considered significant since no previous studies exist for this locale drawing comparisons of the kind made during this study between coastal and oceanic situations.

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