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Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 Aug;29(8):465-75. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.06.002. Epub 2014 Jul 4.

Challenging the paradigms of deep-sea ecology.

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Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale Napoli, 80121, Italy; Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (DiSVA), Polytechnic University of Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy. Electronic address:
Ocean Sciences Centre and Biology Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, A1C 5S7 Canada.
Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, NOC, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK.


Deep-sea ecosystems represent Earth's major ecological research frontier. Focusing on seafloor ecosystems, we demonstrate how new technologies underpin discoveries that challenge major ecological hypotheses and paradigms, illuminating new deep-sea geosphere-biosphere interactions. We now recognize greater habitat complexity, new ecological interactions and the importance of 'dark energy', and chemosynthetic production in fuelling biodiversity. We also acknowledge functional hotspots that contradict a food-poor, metabolically inactive, and minor component of global carbon cycles. Symbioses appear widespread, revealing novel adaptations. Populations show complex spatial structure and evolutionary histories. These new findings redefine deep-sea ecology and the role of Earth's largest biome in global biosphere functioning. Indeed, deep-sea exploration can open new perspectives in ecological research to help mitigate exploitation impacts.


biodiversity hot spots; deep-sea ecology; ecological paradigms; ecosystem functioning

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