Shelled pteropod abundance and distribution across the Mediterranean Sea during spring


  • First estimate of pteropod distribution across the Mediterranean Sea in spring.
  • Highest abundance recorded in the oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean basin.
  • Temperature, aragonite saturation, oxygen and salinity main drivers of distribution.
  • Pteropods and planktic foraminifera are inversely distributed in the Med Sea.


Thecosome pteropods are a dominant group of calcifying pelagic molluscs and an important component of the food web. In this study, we characterise spring pteropod distribution throughout the Mediterranean Sea, an understudied region for this common group of marine calcifying organisms. This semi-enclosed sea is rapidly changing under climatic and anthropogenic forcings. The presence of surface water biogeochemical gradients from the Atlantic Ocean/Gibraltar Strait to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea allowed us to investigate pteropod distribution and their ecological preferences. In the ultra-oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean Sea, we found the mean upper 200 m pteropod standing stock of 2.13 ind. m-3 was approximately 5x greater than the Western basin (mean 0.42 ind. m-3). Where standing stocks were high, pteropods appeared largely in the same family grouping belonging to Limacinidae. Temperature, O2 concentration, salinity, and aragonite saturation (Ωar) explain 96% of the observed variations in the community structure at the time of sampling, suggesting that pteropods might show a preference for environmental conditions with a lower energetic physiological demand. We also document that pteropods and planktonic foraminifera have an opposite geographical distribution in the Mediterranean Sea. Our findings indicate that in specific pelagic ultra-oligotrophic conditions, such as the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, different feeding strategies could play an important role in regulating calcifying zooplankton distribution.

Johnson R., Manno C. & Ziveri P., 2022. Shelled pteropod abundance and distribution across the Mediterranean Sea during spring. Progress in Oceanography: 102930. doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2022.102930. Article.

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