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Coral reefs are the most biodiverse marine ecosystem and one of the most threatened by global climate change impacts. The vast majority of diversity on reefs is comprised of small invertebrates that live within the reef structure, termed the cryptofauna. This component of biodiversity is hugely understudied, and many species remain undescribed. This study represents a rare analysis of assembly processes structuring a distinct group of cryptofauna, the Palaemonidae, in the Chagos Archipelago, a reef ecosystem under minimal direct human impacts in the central Indian Ocean. The Palaemonidae are a diverse group of Caridae (infraorder of shrimps) that inhabit many different niches on coral reefs and are of particular interest because of their varied habitat associations. Phylogenetic and trait diversity and phylogenetic signal were used to infer likely drivers of community structure. The mechanisms driving palaemonid community assembly and maintenance in the Chagos Archipelago showed distinct spatial patterns. At local scales, among coral colonies and among reefs fringing individual atolls, significant trait, and phylogenetic clustering patterns suggest environmental filtering may be a dominant ecological process driving Palaemonidae community structure, although local competition through equalizing mechanisms may also play a role in shaping the local community structure. Importantly, we also tested the robustness of phylogenetic diversity to changes in evolutionary information as multi-gene phylogenies are resource intensive and for large families, such as the Palaemonidae, are often incomplete. These tests demonstrated a very modest impact on phylogenetic community structure, with only one of the four genes (PEPCK gene) in the phylogeny affecting phylogenetic diversity patterns, which provides useful information for future studies on large families with incomplete phylogenies. These findings contribute to our limited knowledge of this component of biodiversity in a marine locality as close to undisturbed by humans as can be found. It also provides a rare evaluation of phylogenetic diversity methods.

Original publication

DOI

10.1002/ece3.3969

Type

Journal article

Journal

Ecol Evol

Publication Date

04/2018

Volume

8

Pages

4098 - 4107

Keywords

Chagos Archipelago, convergent and conserved evolution, coral reefs, cryptofauna, environmental filtering, metacommunity, phylogenetic diversity, trait diversity