Meiobenthic communities

Studies and classifications of benthic communities have mostly been confined to examination of the larger animals, or macrobenthos. These communities also contain many smaller forms, the meiobenthos and microbenthos, about which an increasing amount is being learnt. Numerous small organisms just large enough to be seen by the unaided eye comprise the meiobenthos, including foraminifera, turbellarians, nematodes and various small polychaetes, bivalves and crustacea such as harpacticoid copepods. These may sometimes comprise an appreciable fraction of the total biomass, even as much as 25 per cent. Technically meiofauna are those whose size ranges between 0.1 mm and 1 mm. The smallest organisms, visible only with a microscope, comprise the microbenthos, which includes bacteria, a great variety of protozoa, mainly flagellates, ciliates and amoebae, and often other small organisms such as rotifers, crustacean larvae and the smallest nematodes. In shallow water there is often a microflora of diatoms and coloured flagellates. Organisms small enough to live in the interstices between the grains of sediment are described as an interstitial fauna or flora (Swedmark, 1964).

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