Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 2871–2886 | Cite as

The diversity and distribution of mesophotic benthic invertebrates at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

  • Muhammad Azmi Abdul WahabEmail author
  • Ben Radford
  • Jane Fromont
  • Andrew M. Hosie
  • Karen Miller
  • Andrew Heyward
Original Paper


The effective management of marine species relies on a comprehensive understanding of how the environment can influence biodiversity and distributions. This study quantified the biodiversity of invertebrates across the phyla Arthropoda, Echinodermata, Mollusca and Porifera from 132 sampling stations along the coast of the Ningaloo Marine Park (NMP) and across depths ranging from 30 to 123 m, providing a broad assessment of the biodiversity of marine invertebrates in mesophotic habitats of the NMP. Benthic sleds were used to sample biodiversity and specimens identified to the highest taxonomic resolution. Single-beam and multibeam surveys of the seabed were performed to derive 58 spatial and bathymetric variables used to assess their relevance to the distributions of benthic diversity. A total of 787 taxa were identified across the four phyla, of which 51% were rare and sampled from a single station. Latitude and depth were significant in structuring the invertebrate diversity in the mesophotic, with Point Cloates notably identified as a significant geographical feature in partitioning diversity to the north and south of the NMP. Depth was more influential at structuring diversity in the northern section of the NMP due to the narrower Ningaloo Shelf, and southern localities including Turtles and Red Bluff were identified as biodiversity hotspots for benthic invertebrates. Importantly, comparisons of diversity within ‘no-take’ and ‘general use’ zones along the NMP indicate that sanctuary zones represent the diversity contained in the marine park, thus highlighting their importance in the protection and conservation of invertebrate diversity for the region.


Biogeography Sanctuary zones Arthropoda Echinodermata Mollusca Porifera 



We would like to thank the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (Node 3 Project 3.1.1) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science for providing funding for the sampling and identification of the diversity collected in this study. Thank you to the Masters and crew of the RV Cape Ferguson and Solander for supporting the fieldwork. We thank Lisa Kirkendale for comments on drafts of the manuscript. We thank Loisette Marsh for identifying the echinoderms; Shirley Slack-Smith for identifying the molluscs; and Mark Salotti, Oliver Gomez, and Lee Betterridge for technical support. Sample collections for this study were made possible by permits granted by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Fisheries. We would like to thank the associate editor Prof. Paulo Lana, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.


This study was funded by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (Node 3 Project 3.1.1) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities and are mentioned in the acknowledgements, if applicable.

Supplementary material

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Fig. S1 (PDF 289 kb)
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Table S1 (PDF 314 kb)
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Table S2 (XLSX 337 kb)
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Table S3 (XLSX 54 kb)
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Table S4 (PDF 319 kb)
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Table S5 (PDF 312 kb)


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine Science, Indian Ocean Marine Research CentreThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Western Australian MuseumWelshpoolAustralia
  3. 3.School of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, Curtin Health Innovation Research InstituteCurtin UniversityBentleyAustralia

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