A benthic microfaunal record from the equatorial Atlantic Ocean over the past four glacial-interglacial cycles was investigated to understand temporal dynamics of deep-sea latitudinal species diversity gradients (LSDGs). The results demonstrate unexpected instability and high amplitude fluctuations of species diversity in the tropical deep ocean that are correlated with orbital-scale oscillations in global climate: Species diversity is low during glacial and high during interglacial periods. This implies that climate severely influences deep-sea diversity, even at tropical latitudes, and that deep-sea LSDGs, while generally present for the last 36 million years, were weakened or absent during glacial periods. Temporally dynamic LSDGs and unstable tropical diversity require reconsideration of current ecological hypotheses about the generation and maintenance of biodiversity as they apply to the deep sea, and underscore the potential vulnerability and conservation importance of tropical deep-sea ecosystems.
Additional Publication Details
Temporal latitudinal-gradient dynamics and tropical instability of deep-sea species diversity
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America