Massive bioconstructions built by Neopycnodonte cochlear (Mollusca, Bivalvia) in a mesophotic environment in the central Mediterranean Sea
RIVISTA: Scientific Reports
The present paper provides a multidisciplinary fine-scale description of a Mediterranean mesophotic new habitat dominated by the bivalve Neopycnodonte cochlear (Poli, 1795), building large and thick pinnacles on vertical cliffs at two study areas along the southern Italian coast. The pinnacles, constituted by a multilayered aggregation of living and dead specimens of N. cochlear, were interconnected with each other to form a framework of high structural complexity, never observed before for this species. The bioconstruction, considerably extended, resulted very complex and diversified in the associated community of structuring organisms. This latter included 165 taxa attributable to different ecological groups occurring in different microhabitats of the bioconstruction. Among the secondary structuring taxa there were scleractinians, serpulids and bryozoans, all contributing to the deposition of calcium carbonate, and poriferans, helping to bind shells together or eroding carbonate by boring species. In comparison with coralligenous sensu stricto and the recently described Mediterranean mesophotic coral reef, the Neopycnodonte bioconstruction showed peculiar features, since it lacked the major contribution of encrusting coralline algae and scleractinians as reef builders, respectively.