DEPTH TRENDS IN MICROENDOLITH COMMUNITIES OVER TIME IN BIVALVE SHELLS DEPLOYED OFF THE COAST OF LEE STOCKING ISLAND, BAHAMAS
Results show that shallower waters are dominated by autotrophs such as cyanobacteria and chlorophytes and deeper waters are dominated by heterotrophs such as fungi. In samples placed below 73m, heterotroph surface cover appears to increase between two and six years. On an organism level, two and six year samples show distinct community populations at all depths. However, more data are needed to confirm signatures for these communities. Based on preliminary data for percent endolith cover, no trends stand out between two and six years, however, trends were observed within each retrieval year. In samples recovered after two years, endolith density appears to decrease with water depth until 215m. Surprisingly, at 265m endoliths cover a much greater surface area in some samples. In samples recovered after six years, endolith density follows a shows a more predictable decrease with depth through 265m.
These findings indicate that microendolithic community structure in bivalve shells can vary with depth and time, depending on the shell’s environment. It should be noted that the sample size is small and each shell may experience a different microenvironment on the sea floor. More work is necessary to understand these variations and delineate a signature for different depth and time exposures.