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Trends Ecol Evol. 2005 Oct;20(10):534-40. Epub 2005 Aug 9.

On the origin of Antarctic marine benthic community structure.

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  • 1National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, European Way, Southampton, UK, SO14 3ZH.


Environmental conditions fostering marine communities around Antarctica differ fundamentally from those in the rest of the world's oceans, particularly in terms of pronounced climatic fluctuations and extreme cold. Here, we argue that the rarity of pelagic larval stages in Antarctic marine benthic invertebrate species is a consequence of evolutionary temperature adaptation and that this has greatly contributed to the current structure of the Antarctic benthic community. In arguing this position, we challenge the likelihood of previously suggested survival strategies of benthic communities on the Antarctic continental shelf and slope during Cenozoic glacial periods. By integrating evidence from marine geology and geophysics, we suggest that the Antarctic continental shelf and slope were both unfavourable environments for benthic communities during glacial periods and that community survival was only possible in the deep sea or in shelters on the continental shelf as a result of the diachronism in maximum ice extent.

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