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Seasonal bathymetric migrations of deep-sea fishes and decapod crustaceans in the NW Mediterranean Sea

August 19, 2013

Seasonal variations in the photophase length seem to drive migrations of marine animals, a phenomenon still largely unknown in deep-sea fishes and decapod crustaceans. Here, we report depth-oriented migrations of species living in the continental slope of the NW Mediterranean after repeated trawl sampling between 900 and 1500 m depths in four seasons. To understand the variations in the catchability of animals as a function of water depth, we analysed the relationship between population depth shifts and environmental factors by performing a multiparametric habitat monitoring at sea surface (PAR), in the water column (temperature and salinity), and on the seabed (organic matter flux and total mass flux). Significant connections are studied by NMDS and GAM analyses. Bathymetric changes in most targeted species are identified from winter, when distribution was the deepest, to spring and summer, and finally autumn, when the shallowest distribution was observed prior to a sudden bathymetric retreat. The analysis of size-class frequency distributions (Kolmogorov-Smirnov test) discards an effect of the juvenile recruitment on these bathymetric changes. Which environmental factor imparts seasonality to these depth-oriented migrations has not yet been clarified. A strong connection is found with water temperature and salinity, associated to flow of the Levantine Intermediate Water (LIW) and the Western Mediterranean Deep Water (WMDW). The studied depth range was affected by seasonal fluctuations of both water masses and the interphase amongst them. LIW showed a stronger seasonal pattern, getting warmer, saltier in autumn and fresher in winter. The migration of most species towards shallower depths in spring, summer and autumn, and the sudden migration to deeper grounds in winter could therefore be related to changes in LIW temperature and salinity.

Aguzzi J, Company J B, Bahamon N, Flexas M M, Tecchio S, et al., in press. Seasonal bathymetric migrations of deep-sea fishes and decapod crustaceans in the NW Mediterranean Sea, Progress in Oceanography, 2013, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2013.07.025. Article.

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