Epiphytic seaweeds and invertebrates associated with South African populations of the rocky shore seagrass Thalassodendron leptocaule — a hidden wealth of biodiversity
AbstractSeagrasses support a great diversity of epiphytic organisms. There are no detailed published accounts of algae and animals growing on seagrasses in South Africa. The seagrass Thalassodendron leptocaule (previously known Thalassodendron ciliatum) is unique among southern African seagrasses in that it occurs on exposed rocky outcrops along the Mozambican and north-eastern South African coasts; most other seagrasses are restricted to sheltered bays and estuaries. Here we present accounts of species of flora and fauna identified growing epiphytically on this seagrass in northern KwaZulu-Natal. A total of 52 taxa of macroalgae and 204 species of macroinvertebrates were identified as epiphytic on South African T. leptocaule. The most frequently observed macroalgal epiphytes were predominantly Rhodophyta and were common among periodically exposed, intertidal and subtidal habitats. The crustose red coralline algae Pneophyllum amplexifrons and Hydrolithon farinosum were frequently observed, primarily on stems and leaves of the seagrass respectively. The most diverse groups of epiphytic invertebrates were Arthropoda, Annelida and Mollusca, which together comprised 76% of the macroinvertebrate species recorded. This seagrass species is evidently an important substratum and ecosystem that supports a hidden wealth of biodiversity.
Keywords: biodiversity, intertidal, macroinvertebrates, seaweeds, Sodwana Bay, species richness
African Journal of Marine Science 2013, 35(4): 523–531