Living benthic foraminifera: biogeographical distributions and the significance of rare morphospecies
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Previous studies have investigated regional distribution but this is the first attempt to investigate the global biogeographical distribution of individual morphospecies of living/stained smaller benthic foraminifera. From 8032 samples collected between 1952 and 2011 data have been gathered on the relative abundance of >120 species in five major environments ranging from marsh to deep sea. There is a spectrum of six groups of species with abundance ranging from very high (Group 1) to extremely low (Group 6). In the latter species abundance never reaches 10% of an assemblage and, in many cases, it is only 1–2%. Individual species are shown to occupy a range of environments with very few being confined to a single environment (usually either marsh or deep sea). Some species occur in several oceans while others are confined to just one. There is no correlation between species abundance and being either widely or narrowly distributed. Propagules are the most likely mechanism of dispersal but some narrowly distributed species may not produce them. Generalists may be widely or narrowly distributed but opportunists are likely to be widely distributed. The rare species of Group 6 contribute to high diversity in shelf and deep-sea assemblages. These species may be adapted to minor differences in microhabitats induced by disturbance and patchy food supply. Patterns of biogeography have application to ecology, palaeoecology and taxonomy.