Benthic protozoan community attributes in relation to environmental gradients in the Arabian Sea
“Live” (stained) and dead macrofaunal (>300 μm fraction) foraminifera in multicorer samples (0-1 cm and 0-5 cm layers) were analysed at six stations along a transect (100-3400 m water depth) across the Oman margin (Arabian Sea) oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). Very high abundances (2858 per 25.5 cm2), dominated by Uvigerina ex. gr. semiornata, were found in the upper 100 m. The 850 m site also had elevated abundances. These peaks probably represented upper and lower OMZ boundary edge effects, respectively. A total of 199 live species was recognized. Diversity was depressed between 100 m and 850 m and relatively higher at the 1250 m and 3400 m sites. Vertical distribution in the sediment reflected responses found across the horizontal gradient, with species concentrated in the top sediment where bottom-water oxygen concentration was low and distributed more evenly through the sediment where concentration was higher. In general foraminifera and metazoan responded similarly to oxygen and food availability, except that the lower boundary of edge effect was located at a shallower depth (700 m) for the metazoans. Live:dead ratios of foraminifera increased with water depth. The second part of the thesis concerns Gromia, a large marine protist with filose pseudopodia and an organic test that is abundant in the bathyal Arabian Sea. Deep-water Gromia-like morphospecies were discovered in the 1990’s but their relation to shallow-water species was not established. Little is known about gromiid diversity, reflecting the fact that these relatively featureless protists have few characters useful for species identification. Consequently, ultrastructural and molecular techniques were used to examine gromiid diversity on the Oman and Pakistan margins of the Arabian Sea (water depths 1000-2000 m). In total, 27 deep-sea gromiid sequences of the SSU rDNA gene and 6 sequences of the ITS rDNA region were obtained. The data confirmed that Gromia-like protists from the bathyal deep sea are related to shallow-water gromiids. Among Arabian Sea Gromia, seven lineages were identified based on molecular evidence. Five of them form a monophyletic group branching as a sister group to shallow-water species. Four lineages can be defined morphologically, while grape-like morphotypes include 3 lineages that cannot be distinguished morphologically. Each lineage probably represents a separate species, implying that deep-sea gromiid diversity is higher than indicated by their simple morphology. Morphological analysis adds 2 more species, giving a total of 9 deep-sea gromiid species, adding considerably to the number of known marine gromiids, only three of which are currently described.