Investigating Temporal and Spatial Biodiversity of Mollusks on the Western Shelf of Florida Using Taphonomic Grading

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The Gulf of Mexico spans 1.6 million km2 and is one of the most economically and ecologically important bodies of water in the United States, Mexico, and Cuba; however, it is under increasing threat from human activities (e.g., pollution, fishing, and mining). While still in the early stages of development, this study seeks to identify priority conservation areas in the eastern Gulf. To answer this question, we will analyze a new dataset based on marine mollusks collected from seafloor sampling of 230 stations that span nearly the entire western Florida shelf from 2008 to present. Collections can be partitioned into pre- and post- 1950 using shell condition (i.e., taphonomy) as a proxy for age. Mollusks were selected for this study because of their abundance and presence of dead individuals that represent past communities. Preliminary data indicate that some species have disappeared from habitats in which they were previously abundant, and biodiversity and species populations are not continuous but are clumped in specific hotspots.

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Presented at the Florida United Malacology Conference on February 16, 2019 in Gainesville, FL