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Marine benthic flora and fauna of Gourdon Bay and the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia

Keesing, J.K., Irvine, T.R., Alderslade, P., Clapin, G., Fromont, J., Hosie, A.M., Huisman, J.M., Phillips, J.C., Naughton, K.M., Marsh, L.M., Slack-Smith, S.M., Thomson, D.P. and Watson, J.E. (2011) Marine benthic flora and fauna of Gourdon Bay and the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 94 (2). pp. 285-301.

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    Abstract

    Surveys undertaken to characterise the marine benthic habitats along the Dampier Peninsula and further south at Gourdon Bay in the Kimberley region of Western Australia were augmented with epibenthic sled sampling of soft and hard bottom habitats. This paper describes the species collected, their biomass and relative abundance for the main groups of marine macrophytes and invertebrates. Five localities were surveyed; Gourdon Bay, Quondong Point to Coulomb Point, Carnot Bay to Beagle Bay, Perpendicular Head and Packer Island. Sampling was limited to fifteen epibenthic dredge operations from a range of habitat types and was designed to target the most common habitat types and to obtain species identifications of the most important species and those which typified different habitat types. Surveys covered a total of 1,350 m 2 of seabed in depths between 11 and 23m. We identified 415 taxa comprising: 1 seagrass, 43 algae, 52 sponges, 30 ascidians, 10 hydroids, 14 scleractinian corals, 52 other cnidarians, 69 crustaceans, 73 molluscs and 71 echinoderms. Despite the limited nature of the sampling, a significant number of new species, range extensions and new records for Western Australia and Australia were recorded. Within the algae, one range extension (Halimeda cf. cuneata f. digitata not previously recorded in Western Australia) and one possible new species of Areschougia were recorded. Two range extensions were present in the ascidians; the solitary ascidian Polycarpa cf. intonata has previously only been recorded in Queensland and Cnemidocarpa cf. radicosa only in temperate Australian waters. There were several range extensions for the crustacea, for example, the sponge crab, Tumidodromia dormia, has only been recorded in Queensland. One species of holothurian of the genus Phyllophorus could not be identified from the literature available and may represent a new species. Similarly, a small species of the echinoid Gymnechinus could possibly be a new species. The collections of hydroids, hard corals, crinoids and molluscs contained no new species or range extensions. There was difficulty in identification of some groups to species level due to the status of the current taxonomic literature (e.g. Cnidaria, Porifera and ascidians) and there may be a number of new species among the material collected. Among the anthozoa, there is at least one new species of Chromonephthea and potentially 10 range extensions to Western Australia. Sinularia cf. acuta and Chromonephthea curvata are both new records for Australia with both previously recorded in Indonesia only. Among the better known taxa (e.g. molluscs, echinoderms, corals), most of the taxa identified to species level have been recorded to occur throughout north-western Australia, however the diversity recorded in this study is less than other parts of the Kimberley and this is almost certainly a result of the small overall area sampled and the single method of collection utilised. The most important species on soft bottom habitats in terms of biomass was the heart urchin Breynia desorii (up to 326 g.m -2). Sponges were the dominant fauna by biomass (up to 620 g.m -2) on hard bottom habitats and biomass was dominated a by a few large cup and massive sponge species (e.g. Pione velans and two unidentified Spheciospongia). The biomass of other filter feeders, especially ascidians (e.g. Aplidium cf. crateriferum), soft corals (e.g. Chromonephthea spp.), gorgonians (e.g. Junceella fragilis and Dichotella gemmacea) was also high, indicating the importance of these groups in characterising hard bottom habitats. Although low in biomass, crinoids such as Comaster multifidus and Comatula pectinata were abundant in samples that included a high biomass of other filter feeders.

    Publication Type: Journal Article
    Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
    Publisher: Royal Society of Western Australia
    Copyright: © Royal Society of Western Australia 2011
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/7714
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