Sabellida are widespread, diverse and abundant in marine benthic habitats. Their distribution patterns on hard-bottom substrates are poorly studied so far. Little is known about the factors influencing their distribution, including the protection regimes that are known to affect assemblage diversity. We analyzed hard-bottom Sabellida at 1.5 and 5 m depths at the Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area (MPA) (SE Italy) to describe diversity and distribution patterns, and to identify potential factors influencing their distribution. The Sabellida diversity varied significantly among stations and was higher at 5 m depth. No relation with the protection regime was found. Among environmental variables, only sedimentation appeared related, suggesting that local trophic features might have influenced the observed pattern. Among habitat formers, only the macroalga Halimeda tuna
significantly explained part of the observed variation, probably due to its role as a basibiont for some Sabellida taxa. Other predictor variables of Sabellida distribution were the abundances of some invertebrate taxa, especially Syllidae and some filter feeders such as Sabellariida and Cirripedia, probably due to shared ecological requirements, rather than a direct effect on Sabellida distribution. The relation with the Syllidae remains obscure so far, albeit some kind of interaction (including predator/prey interactions) between these two taxa cannot be excluded. Sabellida should be taken into account when analyzing patterns of biodiversity of hard-bottom environments.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited