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Abstract

Seventy−six species of Polychaeta were found in 19 quantitative samples collected in the deep sublittoral (200–500 m) of Admiralty Bay (South Shetlands). Three assemblages were distinguished by similarity analysis (clustering, nMDS). The soft bottom in depths from 200 to 300m was strongly dominated by Maldane sarsi antarctica and had very low species richness and diversity. The second assemblage was distinguished in the areas of the sea floor in the same depth range but with aggregations of Ascidiacea and Bryozoa. It was again characterized by high abundance of Maldane sarsi antarctica , but showed significantly higher species richness and diversity. Diversity of polychaete feeding guilds was also high in these areas. This pattern was probably associated with an increased habitat complexity due to the presence of dense aggregations of large suspension feeders. High species richness and diversity was also noted in the third assemblage, associated with the deepest sublittoral (400–500 m) of Admiralty Bay. This is the area characterized by very stable environmental conditions, where the assemblage was dominated by Tharyx cincinnatus , Sternaspis sp., Maldane sarsi antarctica , and Asychis amphiglypta .
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