A preliminary survey of the biological diversity of pelagic decapods in the Mediterranean coastal waters of Israel

The Mediterranean Sea encompasses among the most impressive marine biodiversity in the world. At the same time there is an unprecedented loss to this biodiversity that is severely impacting many regions, including shallow coastal habitats in Israel. Marine decapods (crabs, shrimps, lobsters) represent one of the largest multi-species taxa and are among the most commercially and ecologically important species in these waters. However, distributions of such organisms and their planktonic stages in the pelagial are poorly understood compared to the benthos, especially in the context of a changing environment. The goal of the proposed survey is to assess the diversity of pelagic marine decapod assemblages in selected areas of the Israeli Mediterranean coast, over a spatiotemporal gradient. We will conduct a series of plankton tows and identify these species of interest to create a digital catalogue and will correlate our surveys with selected environmental parameters. For species of particular economic and ecological importance, we will capture live specimens and explore some of the cues (light, temperature) in the laboratory that influence their distribution. Our biodiversity survey will provide a baseline for taxonomic databases in the Mediterranean pelagial and will contribute much needed data for patterns of larval behavior and ecology.