Bivalve Diversity on the Continental Shelf and Deep Sea of the Perdido Fold Belt, Northwest Gulf of Mexico, Mexico
Mollusk diversity in coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) has been studied extensively, but this is not the case for deep-water habitats. We present the first quantitative characterization of mollusks in shallow and deep waters of the Perdido Fold Belt. The data came from two research cruises completed in 2017. Sediment samples were collected from 56 sites using a 0.25-m2 box corer. We tested hypotheses about spatial patterns of α, β, and γ-diversity of bivalves in two water-depth zones, the continental shelf (43–200 m) and bathyal zone (375–3563 m). A total of 301 bivalves belonging to 39 species were identified. The two zones display similar levels of γ-diversity, but host different bivalve assemblages. In general, α-diversity was higher on the continental shelf, whereas β-diversity was higher in the bathyal zone. These patterns can be explained by the higher input of carbon (energy) to the near-coast shelf zone, as well as by the greater topographic complexity of habitats in the bathyal zone. These results enabled us to propose redirection of sampling efforts for environmental characterization from continental zones to the deep-water zone, especially in the context of environmental assessments during oil and gas exploration and production.