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Abstract:

The two principal aims of this study were to synthesise physical and biological information to characterise the Lord Howe Rise (LHR) region and to use recent survey collections of benthic invertebrates (mostly large benthic epifauna) to describe its biogeography at regional and sub-regional scales. The LHR region is large (1.95 million km2), spans tropical and cool temperate latitudes (18.4 to 40.3°S), and is influenced by several ocean currents, notably the East Australian Current and the Tasman Front. Our analyses revealed that biological patterns were related to two groups of geomorphic morphotypes found in this topographically complex region: subdued bathymetric features (expansive soft sediment basins and plateaus) and raised bathymetric features (scattered seamounts, guyots, knolls, and pinnacles). Raised bathymetric features in the LHR region were more likely to support richer and more abundant epifaunal assemblages dominated by suspension feeding invertebrates on hard substrata compared to subdued features which were dominated by infauna and detritivores in soft sediments. However, this trend does not apply to all raised bathymetric features (e.g., Gifford Guyot), with variations in depth, elevation, latitude, and particularly substrata affected the composition of biological assemblages. In addition, some demersal fishes, ophiuroids, and other benthic invertebrates showed distinct north-south delineations that coincide with the influence of the Tasman Front and thermal gradients. While the lack of spatially- and temporally- replicated data in the region limits our interpretation of survey data, paleo-environmental processes and examples from other regions provide some indication of how dispersal influences migration, speciation, and endemism in the LHR region. Although our current knowledge is limited, it is hoped that this review will help inform future studies in the area, as equitable examination of biological, geological, and oceanographic characteristics will facilitate future assessments of LHR biogeography and permit the inclusion of this region in biogeographic studies with a national or global context.

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