Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 783–811 | Cite as

Distributional patterns of isopods (Crustacea) in Icelandic and adjacent waters

  • Saskia Brix
  • Bente Stransky
  • Marina Malyutina
  • Krzysztof Pabis
  • Jörundur Svavarsson
  • Torben Riehl
Biodiversity of Icelandic Waters
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Biodiversity of Icelandic Waters


Since the 1990s, the marine benthos of the Greenland–Iceland–Faeroe (GIF) Ridge has been sampled through the BIOICE (Benthic Invertebrates of Icelandic waters) and subsequent IceAGE (Icelandic Marine Animals: Genetics and Ecology) projects. Isopod crustaceans formed one of the prominent macrofaunal groups. Most isopod families occurred on both sides of the ridge, but showed side-specific abundance patterns reflecting known distribution from the literature. Our results from 35,536 isopod specimens from 55 epibenthic sled stations show a depth pattern at the family level indicating typical shallow water families like, for example, Paramunnidae or typical deep-water families like, for example, Haploniscidae and Ischnomesidae, while other families did not show a clear depth trend. We hypothesize that the ridge influences the distribution of the families through its effects on the hydrography and sediment characteristics. Total organic carbon (TOC) and mud content significantly explained isopod family distributions, possibly reflecting different habitat use and lifestyle (e.g., infaunal, epifaunal). Our analysis of a subset of 27 selected BIOICE and IceAGE stations and 100 isopod species (22,574 specimens), mostly covering the upper 1000 m depths between Iceland and Norway along the Iceland–Faeroe Ridge (IFR), resulted in four main species assemblages differing in species diversity. Whereas north of the IFR, we found 76 species; south of the IFR, we found 52 species; 40 species occurred both north and south of the IFR. Although the subset of selected stations is limited to a comparably small portion of the IceAGE sampling grid and to a comparably restricted depth range of the upper 1000 m, our result shows the slope area of Northeast Iceland and around the Faeroes and the Norwegian Channel with the highest number of species, especially stations in the thermocline between 400 and 800 m depth, where we observed the turnover from shallow to deep-water faunal elements.


Subpolar Benthos Isopoda Depth Gradient Thermocline Diversity Biogeography 



We would like to thank the staff of the Marine Science Centre, Sandgerði, Iceland, in particular Sigrún Haraldsdóttir, and the staff of the DZMB in Hamburg, Germany, namely Karen Jeskulke, Antje Fischer, Nicole Gatzemeier and Sven Hoffmann, for sorting the isopods to family level. We wish to thank Sarah Schnurr, Moritz Häring, Maggy Kurth, and Daniela Töbelmann for their contributions, especially Maggy Kurth who provided the first glance on the complete dataset with her bachelor thesis. Angelika Brandt kindly supervised the two bachelor theses of Maggy Kurth and Moritz Häring and the project study of Daniela Töbelmann at the University of Hamburg. We wish to thank Captain Michael Schneider and the crew of RV Meteor and Captain Klaus Ricke and the crew of RV Poseidon for their support during the cruises with the respective vessels in 2011 and 2013. Marina Malyutina was able to visit Hamburg and determine the munnopsid isopods through the financial support of a “Senckenberg taxonomic grant” in spring 2017. Robert Jennings from the Temple University in Philadelphia kindly did the native speaker corrections of the English of this manuscript.


The German Science Foundation provided financial support for the expedition logistics and sample sorting under contract no. BR3843/5-1.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors. Permits and approval of field or observational studies have been obtained by the authors. Museum collection numbers are not provided, but a statement is given: So far all material is planned for the final storage in two museums: Zoological Museum Hamburg and Senckenberg Crustacean Collection in Frankfurt. All IceAGE isopod specimens and the BIOICE munnopsids used in this study are available via DZMB HH numbers and stored in the material archive hosted at the DZMB. All remaining BIOICE isopods determined during this study are hosted at the University of Iceland under the responsibility of Jörundur Svavarsson. We do not describe new species and do not use any genetic data.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senckenberg am Meer, German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research (DZMB)HamburgGermany
  2. 2.Centre of Natural History (CeNak), Zoological MuseumUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  3. 3.A.V. Zhirmunsky Institute of Marine Biology, National Scientific Center of Marine Biology, Far Eastern BranchRussian Academy of SciencesVladivostokRussia
  4. 4.Laboratory of Polar Biology and Oceanobiology, Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Hydrobiology, Faculty of Biology and Environmental ProtectionUniversity of LodzLodzPoland
  5. 5.Faculty of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Iceland, Askja – Natural Science BuildingReykjavíkIceland
  6. 6.Department Marine Zoology, Section CrustaceaSenckenberg Research Institute and Natural History MuseumFrankfurtGermany

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