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3 May 2021 Potential Distribution and Environmental Niche of the Black Corals Antipathes galapagensis and Myriopathes panamensis in the Eastern Tropical Pacific1
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Abstract

Antipathes galapagensis and Myriopathes panamensis are black coral species (Order Antipatharia) distributed in the Eastern Pacific from the Gulf of California to the coasts of Peru, at depths from -10 m to -200 m for A. galapagensis and to -50 m for M. panamensis. Antipatharians have great ecological importance as engineer species and major constituents of “coral forests,” which are recognized as vulnerable marine ecosystems. Antipathes galapagensis has been a target of fisheries in several countries and has frequently been overexploited. Thus, the aim of this study was to compile a database of georeferenced records of A. galapagensis and M. panamensis, and use distribution data and environmental variables to construct habitat suitability models with Maxent software, in order to better understand black coral environmental requirements and potential distributions in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. The models showed good fit and performance (AUC > 0.9); key variables that drive the potential distribution of both species were chlorophyll a, nutrient concentration, and seawater temperature. The models did not predict occurrences beyond the recognized distribution range limits of the species; notwithstanding, they indicated that the Pacific coast of the Baja California Peninsula and the central and southern coasts of the Mexican Pacific have areas of high suitability for the presence of these corals. To our knowledge, no black coral records from these sites exist in the literature to date; thus, field validations are needed to verify the model predictions. With these results, it is possible to offer suggestions of new conservation sites for black corals based on the areas with the highest probability of occurrence of the species.

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Antonella Lavorato, Silvia Stranges, and Hector Reyes Bonilla "Potential Distribution and Environmental Niche of the Black Corals Antipathes galapagensis and Myriopathes panamensis in the Eastern Tropical Pacific1," Pacific Science 75(1), 129-145, (3 May 2021). https://doi.org/10.2984/75.1.6
Accepted: 17 November 2020; Published: 3 May 2021
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