`Live' benthic foraminifera at an abyssal site in the equatorial Pacific nodule province: Abundance, diversity and taxonomic composition
Replicate sediment samples were obtained from 3 closely spaced stations in the Kaplan East (KE) area of the abyssal eastern Equatorial Pacific (̃15°N, 119°W; ̃4100 m water depth), just below the carbonate compensation depth. At each site, 2 (Stns 827, 838) or 3 (Stn 824) complete cores (57 mm i.d.) were subsampled using 2-3 cut-off syringes of 6.6 cm 3 cross-sectional area. The 0-1 cm sediment layers (>32 μm fraction) of these 20 subsamples together yielded 12,513 small, rose-Bengal stained benthic foraminifera dominated by agglutinated taxa, most of them morphologically simple monothalamous types or komokiaceans. Almost two-thirds (65%) of specimens were either obvious fragments, mainly of komokiaceans and tubular foraminifera, or single chambers or small groups of chambers believed to be fragments of very fragile komokiaceans. The remaining 4438 specimens (35%) were considered to be complete individuals. Most (78%) of these complete tests were indeterminate agglutinated spheres (termed 'psammosphaerids') that constituted 27.6% of all specimens (complete plus fragments). Complete individuals that could be assigned to either described or undescribed species accounted for 983 specimens (22% of complete tests=7.6% of all specimens); only 26 specimens (0.59% of complete individuals) were calcareous and these had invariably lost their tests through dissolution. Some groups exhibited considerable spatial heterogeneity. For example, 45% of the 3455 indeterminate psammosphaerids and 45% of the 3087 Komokiacean-like chambers occurred in single subcores. A total of 252 morphospecies was recognised; 168 were represented by complete individuals and 84 by fragments. There are clear differences between these Pacific assemblages and those from other oceans; in particular, psammosphaerids and isolated komokiacean chambers appear to be much more prevalent in the Pacific compared to the Atlantic Ocean. Some morphospecies present in Kaplan samples are known from the Atlantic but many are not. Such species may either (1) be ubiquitous but undersampled because they are rare or (2) have geographically patterned distributions. Without further sampling, there is no way to distinguish between these 2 possibilities. Fossilisable tests represent a very small component of the KE assemblage. Many of the delicate, monothalamous species that have little fossilisation potential, including the komokiaceans, accumulate stercomata (waste pellets) and may consume organic material and bacteria associated with sediment. Because of their enormous abundance at abyssal depths, these poorly known taxa probably play a substantial role in carbon cycling over vast areas of the Pacific seafloor.