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Advisory Committee Chair

James B McClintock

Advisory Committee Members

Charles D Amlser

Christopher L Mah

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2011

Degree Name by School

Master of Science (MS) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Antarctic nearshore benthic communities are known for their unique richness and diversity of marine invertebrates. Bryozoans, soft corals, tunicates, cnidarians, tunicates, sponges and echinoderms are among the dominant groups of marine invertebrates. All five classes of Echinodermata are represented in nearshore waters of Antarctica, however, brittle stars and sea stars are the most classes. Antarctic echinoderms are important in contributing to carbon cycles and benthic production, as well as playing significant roles as determinants of community structure. To date, no systematic quantitative study has been conducted on the echinoderm fauna in nearshore shallow waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. The present study assesses the abundance and distribution of echinoderms at shallow depths (2 to 15 meters) at five sampling stations in the near vicinity of Palmer Station, Anvers Island, on central western Antarctic Peninsula. Preserved samples of echinoderms were collected by hand and using suction of replicate quadrats along a series of benthic transects representative of discrete habitats. All echinoderms were sorted and identified to the lowest taxonomic classification possible. Four species of sea stars, two unidentified species of brittle stars, two identified species of sea cucumbers, and one species of sea urchin were collected from the study area. The present study shows a significant relationship between the number of sea cucumbers and the depths sampled, as well as a significant difference among the number of brittle stars found at each depth sampled. The purpose of this study is to provide a quantitative analysis of the echinoderm fauna in nearshore shallow waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Keywords: echinoderms, Antarctic, peninsula

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