Abundance and diversity of ascidians in the southern Gulf of Chiriquí, Pacific Panama Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Little is known about the ascidian fauna of Pacific Panama. Ascidian surveys were conducted in the southern Gulf of Chiriquí on the Pacific coast of Panama in January 2008 and 2009. Surveys along linear transects at 2-3 m depth (snorkel, 2008) and 5 and 12 m depth (SCUBA, 2009) were conducted at multiple sites within a chain of islands extending out from the mainland. Twelve different ascidian taxa were observed with mean densities of up to ~17 ascidians m-2. The most abundant species was Rhopalaea birkelandi. Two of the most abundant taxa (Ascidia sp., Pyura sp.) appear to represent previously undescribed species. Several species of didemnids were also abundant. Ascidians were most abundant near the coast of the mainland and were less abundant near the islands farthest offshore. These data on Panamanian ascidian communities provide a baseline of local biodiversity against which it will be possible to determine whether the communities change over time, if additional species become introduced to the region, or if native Panamanian species become invasive in other parts of the world.

publication date

  • December 2011